China implies domestic focus for new security council

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2013 4:19 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government implied on Wednesday that a new "state security committee" would have a domestic focus, saying its establishment should strike fear into the heart of extremists, separatists and others who wish to harm the country.

Details of how the committee will work and when exactly it will begin operations were left unclear in a government communique issued on Tuesday at the end of a key meeting of the ruling Communist Party to map out political and economic reforms.

"The aim of China's decision to set up a state security committee is to perfect the country's security system and strategy, to ensure the country's safety. I have no other information to provide you apart from this," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news briefing on Wednesday.

Asked whether the committee was being set up partly in response to Japan's decision earlier this year to enact its own national security council, Qin was dismissive, implying it would have more of a domestic role.

"Doubtless, with China's establishment of the state security committee, terrorists will be nervous, separatists will be nervous, religious extremists will be nervous. In short, all those who threaten and damage China's security will be nervous," he said. "Do you want to lump Japan in with that too?"

Relations between China and Japan have sunk to a new low due to an increasingly ugly spat over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East 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.

China has blamed incidents of violence in Xinjiang on Islamic extremists, although rights groups and some experts doubt the existence of a cohesive extremist movement.

Experts say the idea was based on the National Security Council in the United States and would increase coordination between the various wings of China's security bureaucracy, split now between the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

Hence it could also have a focus on potential overseas flashpoints, like North Korea and the South China Sea.

"The founding of this organization is in the interests of quick and efficient decision making in national security," retired Major General Luo Yuan, one of China's most outspoken military figures, told the official People's Daily.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editig by Raju Gopalakrishnan)