The Obama administration conducted two secret diplomatic missions to North Korea in 2012, according to reports in the South Korean press that were confirmed by the Los Angeles Times. The talks failed to dissuade the regime of Kim Jong Un to abandon that country’s aggressive nuclear weapons program. President Barack Obama suggested such talks in 2007, as did Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel that same year.

On Feb. 12, in what looks increasingly like a direct and personal rebuke to Obama, the North Korean regime conducted an underground nuclear test on the same day that the president was to give his State of the Union address. In two previous State of the Union addresses, President Obama had touted progress in isolating North Korea (2010), and had called on the regime to keep “its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons” (2011).

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