North Korea has reportedly expressed its intent to dismantle its nuclear program in the way requested by the United States.
The U.S. has consistently called for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea, known as CVID.
Citing a source on North-U.S. relations, Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily said Thursday that Pyongyang also intends to accept nuclear inspections and dismantle its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Three U.S. officials, including nuclear experts and officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, are known to have made a weeklong visit to North Korea late last month.
During the recent inter-Korean summit, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also said to have expressed his intent to accept measures for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization as requested by Washington.
New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed to push for the North's denuclearization "without delay," saying that a bad nuclear deal is not an option. He made the vow on Wednesday at his official swearing-in ceremony.
Pompeo said the U.S. administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past and that it’s time to solve the North Korean nuclear issue once and for all.
He also described the current diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang as “an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula.”
He said the U.S. is committed to the permanent, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program and to do so without delay.
Instead of "complete," he used the word "permanent." And for "denuclearization," he used the expression "dismantling."
Some observers said the CVID notion has therefore been upgraded, implying a change in Washington's stance. But the prevailing view is that the U.S. has more clearly stated its goal for negotiations.
In the past, during six-party talks, North Korea gave a report on its nuclear facilities and the amount of weapons grade plutonium it possesses, but it refused to accept a scientific verification process including inspections.
This time around, the North appears to be open to inspections as well, which may lead to substantive progress.
South Korean and U.S. military and intelligence authorities are also known to have detected signs that North Korea has begun taking steps to close down its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and reveal the procedure to the world.
Authorities have observed never-before-seen signs from Tunnel Number 3, such as the removal of cables. This tunnel is technically equipped to carry out a nuclear test at any time.
However, nuclear dismantlement is a complicated process and the devil may lurk in the details.
For instance, even if the North dismantles its ICBMs, its medium- and short-range missiles which threaten South Korea and Japan can still be a hurdle.
The U.S. wants to achieve North Korea's denuclearization within President Trump's term, while the North is asking for a regime guarantee, diplomatic ties with the U.S. and the lifting of sanctions.