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In a swift and strange reversal, Obama administration officials Thursday rushed to play down their own recent announcements of defensive U.S. military movements in response to threats and provocations from the hermit kingdom of North Korea.

The hereditary Communist dictatorship of the Kim family that took over the North with the expulsion of Japanese forces at the end of World War II has always been quirky, unpredictable and, well, mentally unbalanced by any modern governing standards. Despite the approving reports of recent celebrity tourist Dennis Rodman.

The country would be cinematically comical and worthy of a Peter Sellers role were the rogue regime not actively developing nuclear weapons and long-distance missiles to deliver or orbit them.

As with Iran, President Obama has chosen a diplomatic path of international sanctions to discourage the weapons program. As with Iran, they haven’t worked. So, as with Iran, Obama has chosen to apply more of them.

This winter the North set off another underground nuclear test. Then, in recent weeks its officials grew increasingly bombastic, threatening South Korea, shutting down joint economic projects and talking of imminent war with the United States. “The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” a North Korean army official was quoted on Thursday, Asia time.

Reports from intelligence posts, so sophisticated they can eavesdrop on conversations between individual troop commanders, were leaked to the media, telling of ominous military movements in the North.