By any reckoning the meeting itself is a remarkable achievement. Two leaders, whose war of words only last year had the world on edge over the possibility of an all out military confrontation, will now instead sit down for talks on peace and disarmament.

For Donald Trump it’s the chance to make history as the first sitting US President to meet directly with a North Korean leader.

For Kim Jong Un it will be the opportunity to achieve what his father and grandfather never could, a meeting with a US President that will both consolidate his legacy and possibly change the economic course of his country.

So far so good, but beyond this historic significance there remains as many questions as there does answers as to just where the Trump-Kim summit will lead.

Any clues as to which direction the talks are likely to take will come long after 9am local time on Tuesday.

It’s then that the negotiating begins in earnest when Trump will sit down with North Korea’s reclusive young leader at the Capella Hotel on what has been described as Singapore’s “conveniently isolated” Sentosa Island.

Speaking to the AmericanPublic Broadcasting Service (PBS) last week,Professor Sung-Yoon Lee a specialist on North Korea at Tufts University in the US said the site “affords added security and, from the Singaporeans, US and North Korean government perspective, has the added benefit of better muzzling protesters and human rights activists.”

Now a luxury resort whose name translates as Peace and Tranquillity, Sentosa once housed a prisoner of war camp run by wartime Japanese forces and was called “Rear Death Island”. Yet despite such an ominous portent for a historic summit aimed at arms reduction, their remains real hopes that something positive will come from the talks.

In a nutshell what lies on the table is a possible deal in which Trump hopes to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons programme in exchange for the lifting of US economic sanctions.

According to Scott A Snyder director of the programme on US-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the opening positions of both the US and North Korea are “long-standing, well-known, and seemingly non-convergent”.

“The US must hold to its demand for comprehensive denuclearisation of North Korea to uphold the validity of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT),” says Snyder.

“The US must also deny North Korea the ability to use the nuclear threat to intimidate South Korean and Japanese allies, and eliminate risks of nuclear proliferation to other bad actors,” outlined Snyder in a recent blog for the US based think-tank CFR.

From North Korea’s perspective says Snyder, it meanwhile has long sought to establish a deterrent against more powerful adversaries to guarantee the survival of Kim’s regime in Pyongyang and to improve its strategic position and standing as a normal and “responsible nuclear state.”

While on the face of it these respective positions might seem pretty irreconcilable, what is clear is that both leaders have invested their reputations in the negotiations so the stakes could not be higher.

For his part Kim has effectively used his country’sown unprecedented nuclear capability to ensure that missiles and nuclear weapons are forefront in the minds of the US and international community. For precisely this reason say some observers it’s doubtful that there will be much in the way of talk about human rights in the negotiating sessions between the two men.

In reaching the point where he is now Kim has made every effort also to shift global perception of him from isolated authoritarian ruler to international statesman.

The fact too that he has had an unconventional US president to deal with has arguably only helped Kim’s attempts at rehabilitating his image and that of North Korea. Trump too of course has benefited politically from this process. Recent polls show that many Americans approve of his handling of North Korea.

That said there are also many sceptics and detractors too within the US corridors of power. On Friday the Washington Post highlighted how US allies and many Republicans are raising concerns that Trump may impulsively give in on issues they say should be deal-breakers for the US.

There are concerns the newspaper says, over ambiguity about exactly what “denuclearisation” must look like. This has left many US officials uneasy, while others fear Trump may yield on a longtime North Korean wish that the US withdraws some or all of its military presence on the Korean Peninsula.

Many, in particular national security hawks, remain convinced that Trump has misread Kim’s willingness to denuclearise.

“My suspicion remains that he is going to try to get as much sanctions relief as possible without having to give up his weapons,” Marco Rubio, Republican Senator for Florida was quoted by the Washington Post as saying, echoing the views of others.

Rubio, who applauded Trump’s now-reversed decision to cancel the summit, said at the time that it was apparent that Kim’s goal “was either to gain sanctions relief in exchange for nothing or to collapse international sanctions by making the US appear to be the unreasonable party.”

Rubio is far from alone in his scepticism over the summit. There are others too within

US administration ranks who have shown no real appetite for the on-again, off-again, on-again diplomatic meeting between the two leaders.

Some US officials have even raised concerns as to the actual value and morality of sitting down with such an avowed enemy as North Korea. The United States and North Korea are technically still at war they are quick to remind those who disagree with them.

None of this of course appears to matter to Trump. On Thursday he continued to antagonise other leaders at the G7 summit in Quebec with his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, and making a surprise call for Russia to be readmitted to the group of top industrialised nations after its expulsion for annexing Crimea.

All this before he left for Singapore predicting “great success” at the summit with Kim and saying it was possible he could sign an agreement with him to formally end the Korean War.

But the carping of the sceptics in the US will no doubt niggle in the back of Trump’s mind as he sits down with Kim. Some it might be argued have only made the US leader’s negotiating position all the more difficult and vulnerable by stoking up long held suspicions over US motives and intent.

Nothing more starkly illustrated this recently than US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s suggestion that the model for North Korea’s denuclearisation should be what happened in Libya in 2003.

In using such a historical parallel Bolton’s suggestion was tantamount to demanding that North Korea’s weapons be crated up and sent directly to America.

Unsurprisingly Bolton’s remarks did not go down well in Pyongyang for whom the Libya model still resonates in the North Korean political mind-set.

North Korea well recalls how in 2003, Libya agreed to give up its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programmes to restore its standing in the international community and get sanctions relief. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was later driven out of power and killed in 2011 during the Arab Spring revolution, a fate not lost on the North Koreans.

Writing in the US magazine Foreign Policy recently Doug Bandow a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute think-tank summed up US political thinking all those years back.

“US President George W. Bush announced in 2003 that Libya’s “good faith will be returned.” For eight years, the United States and Europe showered him - Colonel Gaddafi -with flowers and whispered sweet nothings in his ear.”

It’s a measure of how touchy Pyongyang is about the Libya parallel that mention of it first by Bolton and again by Vice President Mike Pence nearly derailed Trump’s historic meeting with Kim some weeks back

Nevertheless Bolton like other uber-hawks in the administration continues to see the summit not as a step towards peace but as a prelude to, possibly even a pretext for, war. Writing recently on the CNN website Dr Ira Helfand co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) highlighted the potentially incendiary role Bolton has had in the run up to the summit.

‘John Bolton has grudgingly welcomed the summit because it will “foreshorten the amount of time that we’re going to waste in negotiations that will never produce the result we want,” he quoted the US National Security Adviser as saying.

Bolton too in an interview as early as last autumn argued that “more diplomacy with North Korea, more sanctions ... is just giving North Korea more time to increase its nuclear arsenal.”

None of this will be helpful to Trump at Sentosa on Tuesday even before the great ‘dealmaker’ has to contend with the North Korean’s own negotiating style.

TIME’ magazine’s Beijing correspondent Charlie Campbell, who knows the region and its tensions well says that dealing with North Koreans is always fraught, as they are also “punctilious about protocol”.

He says that the main problem with the summit will be to lay down the law or making any unbending demands at the outset. “If its just a meet and greet, it should go fine,” Campbell wryly observed recently.

For many observers though the prospect of any major breakthrough strikes them as unfathomable.

Kim they point out remains an absolute dictator who not only presides over forced-labour camps but constantly and clinically eliminates any perceived political opponents and only last month was threatening the US with a possible nuclear “showdown”.

But challenging as getting something out of the talks might be it remains a far better course down which to go than another escalation of hostilities. It remains a sobering thought as to what would happen if the US were to abandon diplomacy and sanctions and instead pursue a military option.

While the specific war plans of North Korea and the US are not, of course, publicly available, everything that is known suggests that any military conflict would be a disaster on a giant scale.

Some 25 million people live in the metropolitan area of the South Korean capital Seoul, within range of the massive North Korean artillery batteries just north of the border. Casualties in the first days of a conventional artillery attack on Seoul could exceed 100,000, according to some estimates.

A US nuclear attack on North Korea designed to “guarantee” the elimination of the North’s nuclear and missile programmes would probably involve 30 or more weapons set to explode at ground level. The resulting clouds of radioactive fallout would envelop much of North Korea and heavily populated areas of South Korea, killing more than 780,000 people and injuring a million more, according to scientific analysis quoted recently by CNN from the research university Stevens Institute of Technology in the US.

Give such a stark alternative to peaceful negotiations what then can we expect from the Trump-Kim summit? Most observers admit it remains near impossible to predict but according to Jenny Town research analyst at the Stimson Centre and managing editor of the much cited 38 North website, we can perhaps expect to see at least some clarification of what the negotiated end goal is and sense of time frame for trying to achieve it.

In addition says Town the two leaders likely will establish some of the essential matters that they want to address under an agreement and a commitment to the negotiating process.

“I wouldn’t be surprised either if they come away with a big gesture of sorts to kick-start the process,” she told American Public Broadcasting Service last week.

Most likely, this is just the beginning of a long process that will require persistence and patience if it is to succeed. Tuesday will mark a historic day in the history of US-North Korean relations. These are very early days but at least it’s a start and a far cry from that war of words only last year.