[JURIST] Japan's House of Councillors [official website, in Japanese] passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the country's space program to be used for defense purposes, including the development of spy satellites. The law, passed by an overwhelming majority of 221-14, was passed [JURIST report] by Japan's House of Representatives [official website, in Japanese] last week and by a lower house committee [JURIST report] earlier this month. When passed into law, the bill will overturn a 1969 parliamentary resolution limiting the country's use of space to non-military activities by placing responsibility for space programs with all members of the Japanese Cabinet [official website], including the newly created Ministry of Defense [JURIST report]. AP has more.
While Japanese lawmakers still oppose the use of actual weapons in space, a stance consistent with Japan's post-WWII pacifist constitution [JURIST news archive], the new space legislation has been characterized as a response to a Chinese weapons test in January 2007 [BBC report], in which the Chinese military reportedly used a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite. Many countries have criticized China's missile test, saying that it could encourage future arms movements into space [CNS backgrounder].