TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's upper house of Parliament approved a bill today to combat child prostitution and pornography.

The bill was sent to the more powerful lower house for approval before enactment into law, which is expected early next month, parliamentary officials said.

The action followed international criticism that Japan's lack of effort in banning sex tourism and Internet child pornography was allowing the crimes to persist both at home and abroad.

Currently, the age of protection in Japan is 13, but it is limited to prostitution only. Offenders are subject to prosecution for rape only if the victim files a criminal complaint.

Under the new bill, sex with a person under 18 will become illegal. It would also ban the sale, distribution, production, possession and trading of child pornography. The law will apply to crimes committed by anyone in Japan or abroad by Japanese nationals.

Violators will face prison terms of up to three years or a fine of up to $8,400 for illegal sex with minors, and three years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 for selling child pornography.