The EU will not sign any withdrawal agreement that does not require guarantees of a status for NI that accepts an extraordinary degree of permanent(*) extraterritorial control by the EU without representation.
The consequences of no withdrawal agreement are bad for the EU, very bad for Ireland and very very bad for the UK.
Do you dispute either of those facts, or are you going to persist in the efforts by multiple people to somehow make them disappear through careful choice of words or context?
Whether that is a “demand” or not is, as you say semantics. I find it odious in either case.
(*: The permanency is key. Turkey can leave its customs union with the EU. Norway can leave EFTA. There would be no legal mechanism under international law for NI to leave the backstop protocol. UK could presumably leave its portion of the backstop protocol by establishing a customs border with the EU+NI )