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China to Widen Draft Security Law to Cover Space, Sea, Polar Interests

FILE - A worker holds a new officially approved map of China that includes the islands and maritime area that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, at a printing factory in Changsha in south China's Hunan province.

China will add its assets and activities in space, the deep sea and polar regions to its pending national security law, state media said Wednesday, the latest changes to the sweeping and controversial draft legislation.

President Xi Jinping, who heads a newly established national security commission, has said China's security covers a wide array of areas, including politics, culture, the military, the economy, technology and the environment. But foreign business groups and diplomats have argued that the draft national security law, which could be adopted after a third reading over the next week by China's top legislative committee, is too broad and vague.

"Harmful moral standards," for example, would also be handled under the law, state media said after its second reading in April by the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee, a group of about 200 members led by the ruling Communist Party.

"Some standing committee members, participants and departments suggested that in space, the deep sea, polar regions and other strategic new frontiers, China has real and potential major national interests and faces security threats and challenges," the official Xinhua news agency said.

China would therefore "peacefully explore and exploit" space, international sea bed areas and polar regions, and strengthen the security of "activities, assets and other interests" there, Xinhua said.

It is unclear what the wording of the final law will cover.

China insists that its space program has peaceful purposes. But the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted its increasing space capabilities, saying it is pursuing aims to keep adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

China has also sought to become more active in the Antarctic and Arctic, where it says it has important research and energy interests.

Provisions to tighten cybersecurity are also core to the pending law, and foreign technology firms are particularly concerned that language calling for the use of "secure and controllable" products could force them out of the market.

In a separate report, Xinhua said legislators would also review a new draft cybersecurity law.

This is one of a raft of new Internet and technology security measures Beijing has pursued after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that U.S. spy agencies planted code in American tech exports to snoop on overseas targets.

"The principle of Internet sovereignty is a major doctrine for safeguarding national sovereignty and interests," Xinhua said.