'Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible' A Tough Goal For North Korea Summit The Trump administration's terms for North Korea's denuclearization verge on the impossible, some former negotiators say: "There's no way of doing something that's irreversible, that I know of."
NPR logo

'Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible' A Tough Goal For North Korea Summit

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/617619192/617676379" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible' A Tough Goal For North Korea Summit

'Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible' A Tough Goal For North Korea Summit

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/617619192/617676379" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

CVID is an acronym you're about to hear a lot. The Trump administration has been using it in the run-up to next week's summit with North Korea. And those four letters have meant different things to different people, as NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Last month at his swearing-in ceremony, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out what you might call a PVID strategy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HEATHER NAUERT: We're calling it CVID now.

WELNA: That's State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert the very next day. Overnight, Pompeo's permanent turned into complete, and his dismantling was now denuclearization.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAUERT: The government likes acronyms so much. We've got a new one - CVID, complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. That is our policy. And that is the policy of Secretary Pompeo.

WELNA: CVID, in fact, is not new at all. Here's State Department official James Kelly 14 years ago explaining to Congress the George W. Bush administration's nuclear talks with North Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES KELLY: Our goal - complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korean nuclear programs.

WELNA: So while dismantlement has been replaced by denuclearization, the CVID catchphrase endures. That bothers Robert Gallucci, who was chief negotiator with the North Koreans during the Clinton administration.

ROBERT GALLUCCI: My concern here is that we latch onto a standard which is physically not actually plausible.

WELNA: Gallucci, who now teaches at Georgetown University, says demanding North Korea's irreversible denuclearization is simply unrealistic.

GALLUCCI: As long as the scientists and engineers who designed and built the facilities are still alive and living in the country, it can be built again.

WELNA: And it's not at all clear that denuclearization, however it's defined, is the plausible demand. Yesterday at a Senate hearing, Colorado Republican Cory Gardner raised that concern with Joseph Yun, who before quitting in March was the State Department's point man on North Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORY GARDNER: Complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization - do you believe Kim Jong Un is committed to that level of CVID?

JOSEPH YUN: I would say, we don't know.

WELNA: Testifying alongside Yun was Victor Cha, the top North Korea expert in the Bush administration. He said while North Koreans too speak of denuclearization, they're not talking about giving up their nuclear arsenal in the foreseeable future.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICTOR CHA: They use it to mean, sometime in the future, they believe that the Korean Peninsula should be free of weapons when there is no longer any threat in the world to North Korea.

WELNA: Yun, for his part, said the U.S. should be taking a step-by-step approach with North Korea, guided by a different word that also begins with the letter D.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YUN: The crucial step is the first step - declaration. Without knowing what they have, how are you going to negotiate with them?

WELNA: Strikingly, neither of these seasoned North Korea experts used that old term, now back in vogue, CVID. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROSETTA SONG, "A DETERMINISM OF MORALITY")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.