Will North Korea conduct a nuclear weapons test in 2022?
resolved Jan 1

Resolves YES if North Korea tests a nuclear weapon before the end of the year. NO otherwise.

I will refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_weapons_tests_of_North_Korea and reliable media reporting for resolution. I will use local time in Korea.


North Korea has done 6 nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the most recent in 2017. In recent weeks, they've conducted a large number of (non-nuclear) missile tests. Satellite imagery also indicates preparations for more underground nuclear tests are underway: https://time.com/6219676/north-korea-nuclear-missile-biden/. According to https://beyondparallel.csis.org/punggye-ri-update-continued-activity-near-tunnel-no-4/?_thumbnail_id=6041

all preparations for a nuclear test appeared completed at Tunnel No. 3

both the United States and South Korea assess North Korea as having finished all preparations for conducting a nuclear test using this tunnel.

The timing of a seventh nuclear test now remains solely within the hands of Kim Jong-un.


See https://manifold.markets/post/nuclear-risk-forecasting for a dashboard of other nuclear risk questions along with commentary and analysis.


Update: In case it matters, the timezone I'm using will be local time in Korea.

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predicted NO

Another question for 2023:


A high-ranking source inside North Korea said last Wednesday that the authorities believe the development and testing of powerful new rocket engines was so successful that a seventh nuclear test to miniaturize nuclear warheads is no longer so urgent.


When asked about the seventh nuclear test, the source told Daily NK that North Korea will “proceed according to the timetable, regardless of the success of engine tests or the launch of the Hwasong-17.”

predicted NO

Later end date:

Arb - this should be lower than a nuclear explosion in 2022 https://manifold.markets/jack/will-a-nuclear-weapon-be-detonated-d8af7cf07475

predicted YES
predicted YES

Lots of relevant news just now, with mixed implications.

North Korea just tested an ICBM: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20221104001654325?section=nk/nk I update slightly up on this, based on previously reported speculation that NK may have wanted to conduct a successful ICBM test followed by a nuclear test (https://manifold.markets/jack/will-north-korea-test-a-hwasong17-i).

Meanwhile, NK threatened "fiercer military responses" https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/north-korea-fires-missile-after-threatening-fiercer-step - this reiterates similar threats they made multiple times in recent weeks, but the fact that they are still reiterating increases my prediction compared to if they stopped issuing these threats.

https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20221116009151325 Interview with South Korea's unification minister:

Refusing to talk with South Korea and the U.S. for years, the North has ramped up its missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year amid speculation that it may soon conduct what would be the seventh nuclear test.

Kwon said, however, the Kim Jong-un regime appears to have completed its preparations for a nuclear experiment but it may not be imminent.

For now, he said, there might be "no urgent demand" for the North to conduct a nuclear test, adding it remains to be seen whether China's National People's Congress set for March 2023 could be affecting the North's decision to go ahead with the test.

Especially, he added, the North seems to have already achieved "political effects" to some extent through the legalization of nuclear weapons use in September.

Seems like a plausible analysis to me, I update slightly down on this.

Weather forecasts are cloudy and rainy for the rest of the month. As previously discussed all previous tests have occurred on sunny mornings - I generally expect this trend to hold with ~75% probability. I update down on this.

Here's a detailed breakdown of my thinking on this question. I predict that a test is likely in the next month (I put it at ~40%). I'm very interested to hear what others think and to see if others can pick apart my thinking.

  • SK and US intelligence have repeatedly stated that they are expecting and preparing for a NK nuclear test. However, from careful reading of the statements from US and SK intelligence, I believe that they "expect" it in the sense of they assign at least say 5% probability to it - they are prepared for it in the same way they are prepared for other high-impact events with 5% probability. (I'm picking 5% kind of arbitrarily as an example, it could be much higher or a little lower.) I don't think it means they expect it to be >50% probability - although it's always hard to tell with these statements. The typical words I've seen are like NK "could" or "may" conduct their 7th nuclear test. And I believe their actions are consistent with preparations for either a 10% or 50% chance of a nuclear test. So I read the statements as strong evidence that the chance of test is >5%, and weak evidence that the chance of test is much higher than that.

  • Satellite assessments shows that the test site is ready, but I think it's harder to be sure about the state of the preparations of the test weapons themselves. SK did say they assessed all preparations were complete, but it seems plausible that NK may still be working on readying the nuclear weapon(s) for testing. And even if most of the preparations are complete, i.e. the site is prepped and the test nuclear weapons are built, it still might take say several days from Kim choosing to go ahead final preparations until the test happens (I don't really know how long these processes take, just guessing). Overall, I estimate that NK is 90% likely to be ready to conduct the test within a short timeframe, if Kim chooses.

  • I believe NK's pattern of escalating missile tests is similar to what we observed in the run-up to previous nuclear tests.

  • Kim's threat of "overwhelming" response to the joint SK/US drills best fit a nuclear test I think, but they could also be satisfied by another escalation in the missile tests or artillery/warplane/etc drills. I interpret this as moderate evidence for a test.

  • It's plausible Kim could be making the threats and the preparations as attempts to gain leverage, so he can extract something by not doing the test. On the other hand, in the past NK's approach seems to have been more of: do the test, and then engage in denuclearization negotiations after. Also, SK and its allies seem to be taking more of a stick than carrot approach here, by threatening "unparalleled" response if NK conducts a nuclear test.

Overall, I think that all signs point to them being very likely ready to test, and I think doing the test as a direct response to the joint military exercises would be one of the most logical times to do it, but it wouldn't surprise me if they wait for one reason or another.

My overall prediction is ~40% and I have been trading accordingly (my position in this market might not reflect my overall prediction because I'm hedging across multiple markets).


North Korea's military said Monday it will take "sustained, resolute and overwhelming" practical military measures in response to joint military drills of South Korea and the United States amid speculation that Pyongyang will likely soon carry out another nuclear test.

For comparison, 1 week ago I posted https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/north-korea-warns-us-powerful-response-allied-drills-92452101 - North Korea threatened "more powerful follow-up measures" in response to the same US and South Korea joint military exercises.

So... we went from "more powerful" to "overwhelming". I don't really update up or down much on this. Seems pretty much like they're still planning to do whatever they were planning to do. It could be the next nuclear test, it could be more missile tests or military exercises.

This article doesn't report anything new, but it seems like a good summary of what's going on and the postures of the different countries: https://www.vox.com/2022/11/5/23440456/korean-missile-launches-nuclear-tests-china-russia-japan


The United States believes China and Russia have leverage they can use to persuade North Korea not to resume nuclear bomb testing, according to a senior US administration official.


3h20m left. "The GMT/UTC minus 12 hours offset is used for Baker Island and Howland Island, both uninhabited and located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean about 3,100 kilometres (1,900 miles) southwest of Honolulu."

@brp oops wrong market. Too bad comments can't be deleted...

predicted YES

@brp Is this for me?

predicted YES
predicted YES

@brp you are correct, still an hour and forty minutes left in October as of 6:20 am EST.

predicted YES

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/north-korea-warns-us-powerful-response-allied-drills-92452101 US and South Korea currently conducting joint military exercises, North Korea threatens "more powerful follow-up measures"

predicted NO

@jack Not clear to me whether this should cause me to update up or down. Loud threats and bluster could be a face-saving way to back down...

predicted NO

@jack By the way, was it public knowledge that these joint exercises were going to happen, before they started? I don't know where to find information about upcoming international events like this, before they're reported in mainstream media...

predicted YES

@Boklam North Korea made a big deal about testing tactical nuke capable missiles, which have no purpose unless they also prove they developed warheads to fit them. That is the main reason it is inevitable.

predicted YES

@Boklam Yes. DoD publishes everything they do, more or less.

predicted YES
predicted YES

https://apnews.com/article/seoul-south-korea-nuclear-weapons-north-d3a1d9d6633e6fc910bfd8a6eadf9158 Further escalation of NK threats:

North Korea issued a veiled threat Tuesday to use nuclear weapons to get the U.S. and South Korea to “pay the most horrible price in history,” an escalation of its fiery rhetoric targeting the ongoing large-scale military drills between its rivals.

@Boklam yeah agree, it's not necessarily clear how to interpret these threats. I guess it would be useful if someone had a dataset on past threats and what was the result of them haha.

predicted NO

@jack Personally I'd like to have a better read on what's going on in a lot of non-Western countries. I feel like the mainstream Western media does a pretty terrible job here, there are good specialty blogs but they are few and far between, and... well at the end of the day I'm also victim to my own laziness.

predicted YES

@Boklam They do have media outlets in South Korea, but neither Korea is a bastion of free speech. I recommend reading the Japanese newspapers or South China Morning Post.

predicted NO

@BTE Ah but it can be useful to read what's being written in China, NK etc. There's useful information to be gleaned from it, with full awareness of the political climate in which it was written.