You are right to think that New Year's predictions, especially the ones we now write in today's Infonet Age, are probably not worth the ether they are written on.
After all, most are written to either amuse or shock or just to establish bragging rights in case the wackiest guess actually happens.
But every now and then, something basic clicks -- and it becomes clear that we have just crossed a historic threshold. Even though no one who really knows is speaking about it.
2010 was one of those years. And this is one of those decades.
Prediction: By the time this second decade of the 21st Century has ended, the world will no longer be menaced by the nuclear rogue that is North Korea.
Here's what will happen: (A) The impoverished nuclear communist regime of North Korea will collapse for good; (B) the two Koreas will be unified; and (C) North Korea's nuclear weapons fuel that once was used to blackmail the world will be blended down as fuel for nuclear power plants that will light the North's cities, towns and rural countryside, empowering a population that was kept perpetually powerless by their dictatorial communist rulers.
Here's why: Because China's new generation of leaders want it to happen. I believe they reluctantly reached this conclusion after North Korea committed a series of outrageous and reckless actions in 2010. Pyongyang's actions slowly but certainly convinced China's leaders they would never again be able to trust or influence constructively North Korea's rogue regime.
China had always feared the prospect of a North Korean collapse, believing that a unified Korea would give the United States massive new influence virtually in China's backyard. But as 2010 unfolded, China's leaders concluded that North Korea's severe poverty, nuclear weaponry and certain succession of irresponsible leadership (as power is handed off to Kim Jong-il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un) meant an out-of-control North Korea now looms as the only force capable of derailing China's inexorable progress toward being a regional and eventually global economic superpower.
I believe all of the above; but you also need to know that I do not have any single source that absolutely knows it is accurate. (Then again, that didn't stop me from predicting the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; or predicting a 1991 Soviet military coup that would topple Mikhail Gorbachev only to trigger the Soviet Union's collapse into a "confederation of nation-states." So maybe you want to keep reading.)
But in the place of one of those authoritative anonymous leaks, we do have a few authoritative WikiLeaks.
In February 2010, U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens cabled Washington that South Korean diplomat Chun Yung-woo (who has since become his government's national security advisor) told her North Korea would collapse in "two to three years" after ailing Kim Jong-il dies. And that China's emerging generation of leaders "would be comfortable with a reunited Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a benign alliance."
In September 2009, China's state councilor Dai Bingguo jokingly reportedly told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg he "did not dare" be too candid with Kim Jong-il. Earlier in 2009, China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei, reportedly told U.S. officials North Korea was acting like a "spoiled child" seeking attention from an "adult" (the United States) to start direct nuclear talks.
The once-secret cables made public by the WikiLeak website show China was often as surprised as the United States by North Korea's nuclear tests and other provocative acts. This year, North Korea was believed to have launched a torpedo attack on a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors; revealed it has built a uranium enrichment plant; and shelled a South Korean island village, killing four and injuring many more.
Good news: Those WikiLeaked documents showed Obama officials and South Korea were properly planning for a possible collapse of North Korea. South Korea reportedly plans to assure China its companies will have access to North Korea's vast mineral deposits.
China's role of protecting and propping up Pyongyang has reached its end. A collapse of the rogue of the North is in everyone's economic and security interests.
Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.