Just a few days before tomorrow's scheduled meeting between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed Kim had "begged" for the meeting after Trump called it off a few weeks ago. "Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it," Giuliani told an audience in Tel Aviv, "which is exactly the position you want to put him in. It is pointing out that the President is the stronger figure and you are not going to have useful negotiations unless he accepts that."
Giuliani appears to be close to the President at present though he has done him little good with ill-chosen remarks on other subjects, the pay-off for a porn star's silence before the 2016 election and the President's powers to pardon himself over the FBI investigation into Russian attempts to influence the election. But Giuliani's observations on the meeting with Kim are worthy of attention.
The first thing to observe is that if Trump was really in a position of strength, there would be no need to say so, and certainly unwise to say so on the eve of the meeting. Whatever Trump intended to gain with his strength would not be gained if Kim called off the talks in response. As usual with bully talk, it is trying to conceal a weakness. The truth is Trump needs success in these talks more than Kim does because Trump has already claimed success on the basis of Kim's offer to denuclearise.
Trump very publicly claimed his tough talk on Twitter had brought a breakthrough and Kim encouraged his claim by blowing up a supposed weapons depot in front of Western news cameras and releasing three American prisoners for Trump to greet on their return home. Trump played the triumphant role Kim was writing for him, seemingly unaware North Korea would expect a reciprocal peace gesture from the US when he sat down with Kim, if not before.
Publicly, so far, Trump has offered Kim no more than economic aid and a guarantee he will not be overthrown by the US. Neither of those is likely to induce North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. It has accepted aid previously and soon resumed its nuclear programme. And if the regime fears a US overthrow, it will want more than words of comfort.
It will probably require some form of action by the US to give the North Korean regime the confidence to do without nuclear weapons. If they do not get that, then chances are the summit will produce nothing more than previous negotiations with North Korea - an empty promise to stop further nuclear developments in return for an aid package. Unless North Korea agrees to verification, a promise could not be trusted, and if the US does not do something to advance a climate of peace on the peninsula, North Korea will not keep a promise.
The two leaders have a rare chance tomorrow to settle this 65-year stalemate once and for all. But they will need to be bold and willing to trust each other. Trump rates his own instincts highly on these dealings. He may produce a surprise.