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Published: Tuesday April 15, 2014 MYT 7:10:03 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 15, 2014 MYT 7:11:49 PM

China stresses need for stability at first meeting of new security council

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping held the first meeting of a new national security commission on Tuesday, saying China needed a coordinated approach to domestic and foreign challenges, including social unrest, in "the most complex time in history".

China announced the formation of the commission in November at the end of a key party meeting to map out reforms.

Experts say it is based on the National Security Council in the United States and will increase coordination among the various wings of China's security bureaucracy, split now among the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

Possible international flashpoints for China include Japan, North Korea and the South China Sea. China says it also faces considerable threats at home, pointing to continued unrest in two regions heavily populated by ethnic minorities which chafe at Chinese rule - Tibet and Xinjiang.

Xi told the commission's first meeting that China faced the "most complex time in history" at home and abroad when it came to its security, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China must "implement and put into practice an overall national security view, paying attention to external as well as internal security", Xi was cited as saying.

While Xi listed areas ranging from economic to nuclear security, he also said the commission had to "take political security as its base" and "seek stability", references to protecting the ruling Communist Party's hold on power and dealing with domestic unrest.

"Security is the condition for development. We can only make the country rich by building up military power, and only with military power can we protect the country," Xi said.

The report did not mention any specific topics that were discussed.

On Monday, Xi urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

While Beijing insists its space programme is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China's increasing space capability and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.

Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers "to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities", Xinhua said.

It gave no details of how China expects to do this.

China has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programmes for military, commercial and scientific purposes. Xi has said he wanted China to establish itself as a space superpower.

But it is still playing catch-up to established space superpowers the United States and Russia. China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has been beset by technical difficulties since landing to great domestic fanfare in mid-December.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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