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sky rockets in flight

North Korea challenges domestic pivot narrative with new ballistic missile test

North Korea conducted a ballistic missile test Wednesday, its first in around two months, The Associated Press reports.

According to the U.S. military, this launch "highlights the destabilizing impact" of the rogue nation's "illicit weapons program." The test also drew concerned reactions from the Japanese and South Korean governments.

In a speech delivered last week at a Workers' Party of Korea conference, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke with precedent by steering clear of overtly bellicose rhetoric and making only vague allusions to ongoing tensions with South Korea and the United States.

Instead, Kim pledged to make "radical progress in solving the food, clothing, and housing problem for the people."

Chad O'Carroll, founder of Seoul-based NK News, tweeted in response to Kim's speech that the authoritarian nation appears to be "more or less in survival mode for 2022 — and doesn't really know what to do re: foreign policy right now."

North Korea has implemented strict border controls and limitations on internal movement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a move that has led to a sharp decline in imports and significant food shortages. Some analysts suggest these hardships explain Kim's pivot to pocketbook issues.

According to BBC, however, Kim also said in his speech that North Korea would continue to build up its defense capabilities.

Denuclearization talks between Kim and then-President Donald Trump foundered in 2019 when Trump refused to ease sanctions against North Korea, NPR reported. Since then, the quasi-communist hereditary dictatorship has committed itself to expanding its nuclear arsenal in order to guarantee future autonomy.