One year has passed since North Korea last test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea has not conducted a single nuclear test since then nor perpetrated any other act of military provocation in the past year.

In the meantime, North Korea has announced its intentions to improve its relationship with the United States and focus on rebuilding the nation’s dilapidated economy. But Pyongyang has made no notable progress toward these goals, and its real agenda remains unclear.

The international community has been issuing stern warnings about the secluded nation’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. It would be premature to think that the country’s behavior in the past year indicates its seriousness.

Above all things, North Korea has yet to disclose information about the nuclear equipment, facilities and technologies it has already developed.

If it is serious about rescuing itself from its current international isolation, North Korea needs to take concrete and convincing actions to discard its nuclear arsenal.

It should realize that there can be no prospect for its economic reconstruction unless it takes a first step in declaring all its nuclear assets and crafting a clear road map to scrap them all.

After firing a missile in November 2017, North Korea announced that it had acquired the ability to strike any part of the U.S. mainland.

After the launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proudly said his country had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

In April this year, the Kim regime declared an end to its “byungjin” or parallel advance, approach of building a nuclear arsenal and the country’s economy simultaneously. Now, he said, North Korea would focus all national resources on rebuilding the economy. He later promised to make efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

There are various views and theories about his real intentions, with pundits guessing whether the North Korean leader is really willing to negotiate away his nuclear weapons if the right incentives are offered or whether he is just trying to buy time by faking a willingness to do so.

There is, however, no denying that Kim has since gone on a diplomatic offensive to pursue dialogue with key regional powers. He has held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in three times each and met with U.S. President Donald Trump in June in the historic first-ever meeting between the leaders of the two countries.

Since early this year, North Korea has also been working to attract investment from Chinese companies. North Korea is behaving as if it were an “ordinary country” by expanding its political dialogue and economic exchanges with other countries with an eye to receiving large loans from international financial institutions. This is the view that is gaining currency among international observers.

But the North cannot achieve this objective until the international sanctions against the country are eased. China and Russia have shown a positive stance toward relaxing the sanctions on Pyongyang, citing the progress it has made during the past year.

But it would be misguided to provide such rewards to the unpredictable regime as long as it is unclear whether and how it will denuclearize itself.

Leaders of the Group of 20 major countries who gathered in Argentina to attend this year’s summit of the grouping discussed ways to deal with North Korea. Trump and South Korea’s Moon agreed on the need to maintain the current sanctions on North Korea until the country is actually denuclearized.

We welcome the agreement on this basic principle by the two leaders, who are preparing for their next meetings with Kim.

What has driven North Korea into seeking dialogue with the international community is unprecedentedly solid unity among countries in confronting North Korea.

World leaders need to renew their commitment to making closely concerted and coordinated efforts to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea without causing tensions in the Korean Peninsula to rise again.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 2