US space agency NASA confirmed Tuesday that it has "corrected" a decision to ban six Chinese researchers from attending a conference on exoplanet research next month.
"Yes, the scientists of Chinese origin who initially were excluded from applying to attend the Kepler Science Conference at the NASA's Ames Research Center next month now are able to apply," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.
In an email to Xinhua, Beutel said the initial decision was " unfortunate" and based on "a misinterpretation" of the agency's policy related to foreign nationals' access to NASA facilities.
"The interpretation was clarified and the decision corrected once the federal government reopened last Thursday," he said.
One of the six Chinese researchers who are originally banned from attending the NASA conference told Xinhua Tuesday he has got security clearance from the space agency.
"Yes, everything is cleared," said the researcher, who refused to be named. "I'll be there (the Kepler conference)."
Before it, NASA sent the six Chinese researchers a letter informing them that their applications for the conference were " being reviewed for clearance."
"We ... are pleased to inform you that this decision has been reversed," the letter said. "We hope you will be able to join us and celebrate the science enabled by Kepler."
At present, it's not immediately known if all of the initially banned Chinese researchers are allowed to attend the Kepler Science Conference, which is scheduled for November at NASA's Ames Research Center in California.
The ban, based on a controversial law passed in 2011 that prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities, sparked a boycott of the meeting from several prominent American scientists, including Professor Debra Fischer of Yale University, and Professor Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley.
Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, believed that recent problems arising from the ban should be served as a wake-up call for "a few individuals within the United States Congress, in particular Congressman Frank Wolf," who crafted the law.
Kulacki said the language of the law is "so broad, and the legal and financial penalties associated with potential violations so threatening, that even US organizations not directly administered by NASA are afraid to reach out to colleagues in China."
He warned that until the legislation is removed, these kinds of incidents will "remain a constant feature" of US-China relations in space.