ONN-VERTIC-CNS Host Innovative Workshop on Forecasting North Korea's Nuclear Futures

On 15-16 February, Open Nuclear Network (ONN), in collaboration with the Verification, Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), held a pioneering two-day workshop aimed at forecasting the developments in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes over the coming decade.

Hosted by the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), the event gathered a carefully selected group of experts from diverse fields - including policy, technical, military, and regional studies - to apply structured forecasting methodologies to this complex issue. 

Facilitated by specialists from ONN and the Swift Centre for Applied Forecasting, the workshop's objective was to synthesize expert assessments into numeric probability estimates for potential scenarios related to the future of North Korea's nuclear fuel cycle and weapons capabilities. 

“The goal of the workshop was to get a better understanding of the future of the North Korean nuclear weapons programme. We've looked in depth at how many warheads and fissile materials North Korea could have produced to date, but projecting it into the future is an entirely different undertaking,” - said Marcy Fowler, ONN’s Research and Analysis Manager. “By applying the forecasting and prediction techniques, we reshaped the conversation and found assumptions we hadn't realized were being made in these assessments.” 

The organizers anticipate that the workshop's outcomes and insights will contribute to ongoing research and inform policy and decision-making processes related to North Korea's nuclear programme. Beyond generating specific numerical forecasts, the event served as a forum for expert collaboration, enriching the collective comprehension of the nuances of North Korea's nuclear programme. The discussions addressed North Korea's goals, the evolution of its nuclear programme, and the possibilities for future diplomatic engagements, including the practicality of verification efforts and the potential for arms control. 

This workshop is part of a multi-year project on open-source assessments of North Korean weapons of mass destruction capabilities, supported by Global Affairs Canada and undertaken by CNS, VERTIC, and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) with ONN.