During a security lockdown inside and outside Singapore's five-star St. Regis hotel before the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday, only two journalists moved freely along the blockaded street, flanked by crowds penned back by police.
It is the first time a North Korean leader has met a sitting U.S. president.
This photo, taken from the North's Rodong Sinmun daily newspaper on June 11, 2018, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting an honor guard in Pyongyang before leaving for Singapore the previous day.
Even after touching down in Singapore, it was clear that the trade disputes with USA allies in Quebec continued to rankle Trump.
But the value of the event - long sought by the North, and which Trump apparently impulsively agreed to in March, reportedly without consulting his advisers - has been called into question by many seasoned experts.
Experts believe the North is close to being able to target the entire USA mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles, and while there's deep skepticism that Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nukes, there's also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the US and the North.
Trump was received by Lee at the presidential palace Istana, where they were expected to discuss everything from the summit preparations to the US' tariff threats. After their initial greeting, the leaders will head into a room for the summit.
The media reports Monday follow months of only the scantest of coverage of the plans for Kim to meet Trump, though his summits with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and China's President Xi Jinping received major coverage soon after they had ended. The leaders also offered lofty promises, with the American president pledged to handle a "very unsafe problem" and Kim forecasting "major change for the world". There was also no sign of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has accompanied him to Singapore.
One diplomatic source in Singapore said, "Tension was very high in North Korea, hence the secrecy".
"If the summit becomes a success, the Singaporean efforts will go down in history", Kim said.
"Thanks PM Lee for spending $20 million of taxpayers money, which can. help a lot of needy families in Singapore to survive", posted one Facebook user. The meeting was initially meant to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, but the talks have been portrayed by Trump in recent days more as a get-to-know-you session.
The US wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons but it is not clear what Pyongyang might want in return.
The behaviour of the media workers and of North Korean security guards, who later accosted tourists taking photos, offered a glimpse into how isolated, tightly regimented North Korea works, just as Tuesday's summit raises the prospect, perhaps still distant, that it might be about to take the first step towards emerging from its Cold War shell.