US President Donald Trump landed in Hanoi on Tuesday for two days of talks to try to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear arsenal.
Trump arrived on Air Force One after flying half way around the world from Washington, while Kim arrived earlier, following a two-and-a-half-day train journey from Pyongyang. They were due to have dinner Wednesday and continue talks on Thursday.
The normally chaotic streets of central Hanoi ground to a halt as Kim’s convoy arrived in the Vietnamese capital.
Curious onlookers gathered next to televisions crews outside the luxurious Melia hotel in Hanoi’s diplomatic district, waiting for hours under chilly, gloomy skies for a glimpse of the North Korean leader as he drove from the border city of Dong Dang after crossing China by train.
His black Mercedes Benz, in the middle of a convoy of at least a dozen cars, flanked by multiple police outriders, arrived shortly after 11am local time to crowds lining the streets, waving North Korean, US and Vietnamese flags, and holding up smartphones to record the moment.
Some 4,000 lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets have been decked with the flags, and a handshake design symbolising peace, while thousands of flower pots have been laid out to welcome the two leaders, who will meet for second time in under a year on Wednesday evening.
Anticipation in the city has been building for days, with residents expressing their excitement at Vietnam being catapulted into the centre of such a significant international event.
“The Vietnamese are anticipating that this will have a big impact on global politics. It’s also a good way to promote tourism here,” said Nyuyen Anh Tuyet, whose small family shop in the tourist district has been designing and selling popular T-shirts decorated with portraits of the two leaders.
Just arrived in Vietnam. Thank you to all of the people for the great reception in Hanoi. Tremendous crowds, and so much love!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2019
The Melia was ringed with tight security on Tuesday morning, with armoured vehicles parked in nearby side streets, and access to the property was severely restricted.
Kim’s bodyguards and staff were seen inside the hotel, some floors blocked off and the hotel informed guests on Monday that they would have to endure heightened security “due to the visit of a Head of State staying at our hotel,” reported Bloomberg.
Such was the cloud of secrecy surrounding Kim’s movements that the American media travelling with the US president, and who had been due to work out of the Melia, were abruptly shifted to a new location a few hours before he arrived.
The personal saunas in the best suites of the five-star hotel, which boasts of "elegant interiors" and "gorgeous views" may offer a brief moment of relaxation for the North Korean leader, who left Pyongyang in his armoured olive green train on Sunday, chugging about 2500 miles across China, before completing the final 105-mile stretch by car.
As he arrived at the station in the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang - the first North Korean leader to visit the country since 1964 - officials were on hand to receive him at the station with a red-carpet and a military guard of honour.
Kim, wearing his trademark Mao-style black suit, was spotted smiling and waving as he stepped into his Mercedes before setting off, about a dozen bodyguards briefly running alongside the vehicle for show.
Little is known about his schedule before he meets President Trump for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening.
Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, told reports on Air Force One that their meeting will be followed by a social dinner, at which they will each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters. She said that would be followed by more meetings between the two leaders on Thursday.
Mr Trump does not arrive in Hanoi until Tuesday evening and he will meet with both Vietnamese president and prime minister before his first talks with Kim.
The summit in Hanoi falls just eight months after the first historic meeting of the two leaders in Singapore last June.
The Singapore summit produced a vaguely worded declaration to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but talks have since stalled over disagreements on how to do so.
While there is no real expectation that a deal will be struck this week to persuade Pyongyang to finally give up its nuclear weapons, there are hopes that the leaders could declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded only with an armistice.
"I believe that the possibility is there," the South's presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters on Monday.
"There is no way of knowing what kind of declaration it might be, but I believe the U.S. and North Korea may reach an agreement."
Meanwhile, the US president tweeted as he left for Hanoi:
Heading over to Vietnam for my meeting with Kim Jong Un. Looking forward to a very productive Summit!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019
"With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse," tweeted Trump. "Without it, just more of the same."
"Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!"
Sign up for your essential, twice-daily briefing from The Telegraph with our free Front Page newsletter.