[JURIST] A committee of Japan's House of Representatives [official website, in Japanese] Friday approved a measure easing legal restrictions on placing Japanese military technology in space ahead of a vote of the full House of Representatives expected next week. The House of Councillors [official website, in Japanese] is expected to pass the bill as well. Lawmakers say that current rules, established in 1969, hamper innovation at Japanese firms, but some believe that the plan is a valid response to a January weapons test by China [BBC report] that destroyed a weather satellite. Consistent with the principles of their post-World War II pacifist constitution [JURIST report], Japanese lawmakers say that they still oppose launching actual weapons into space. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.
Many countries have criticized China's January missile test, saying that it could induce future arms movements into space [CNS backgrounder]. In October 2006, US President George W. Bush authorized the first changes to the US space policy in nearly 10 years by asserting authority to deny access to space [JURIST report] to any adversary hostile to US interests. In 2002, China and Russia jointly proposed an explicit ban on weapons in space [PDF text; China Daily report], but the US opposed the measure, arguing that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty [text] already provided enough protection against the practice.