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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Over the past decade, allied intelligence agencies have pieced together a profile of the young Kim Jong-un from extensive interviews with teachers, students, food preparers, and other staff at the elite Swiss school that Kim attended during his adolescence, according to a source who has carefully studied the classified binder on Kim.

The big picture: "The picture that emerged from literally dozens of interviews bears a striking similarity with the man he has emerged into today," the source said. "Gluttonous, prone to fits of anger and swaggering around his classmates. Kim Jong-un was an in-attendant student but demanded slavish loyalty from other children in his wake."

  • "He was prone to violence,” the source added. “He had a couple of young guys who were with him" at the Swiss school, and "he hit them frequently."
  • "He didn't do well in school. He was distracted a lot."
  • The binder describes the young Kim making vague and grand declarations to his classmates — for example, after games he would say, in the source's recollection, "some day you will all remember me."

Why this matters: In his intelligence briefings, to prepare for his historic summit in Singapore, President Trump has shown intense interest in the personality and quirks of the reclusive Kim, according to sources familiar with his preparation.

  • Trump "definitely thinks it’s a duel of personalities," a source who has discussed North Korea with Trump previously told me.
  • Trump has been quizzing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about what Kim was like when the two men met.
  • The president also has access to far more detailed psychological and personality profiles of the dictator.
  • "There are important strategic considerations ... but he also very much conceives it as a test of wills and of a contest of one man and another,” the source added. “How they’re going to react, how they’re going to shadow box with each other, and ultimately how they’re going to choose to act."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

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