New strategic challenges have emerged in recent months that will influence China's relations with both Koreas into the New Year. China's declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that overlaps South Korean jurisdictional claims and developments inside North Korea emerged in November as two priority concerns in Sino-South Korean relations, obscuring more mundane areas of progress in implementing the June 2013 Park-Xi summit statement. The ADIZ issue dominated the third China-ROK vice defense ministerial-level strategic talks in Seoul and became the centerpiece for diplomatic discussions during US Vice President Biden's visit to China, South Korea, and Japan in early December.
Sino-DPRK relations appeared to suffer a setback following the Dec. 13 execution of Jang Song Thaek, who was vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Administration Department. The execution has raised concern about policy changes that might result. Pyongyang's unpredictability and seeming internal instability have frustrated months of Chinese diplomatic efforts on resuming multilateral denuclearization talks. Kim Jong Un's strategy of simultaneous nuclear and economic development remains in conflict with Beijing's priorities, reinforcing widespread pessimism over prospects for the renewal of talks on Korean denuclearization.