Visit `not in vain'
A Chinese envoy dispatched to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il after the North's nuclear test said yesterday that his trip "has not been in vain." State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇), who delivered a letter and gift to Kim from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Thursday, told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he returned from Pyongyang last night. "Fortunately my visit this time has not been in vain," Tang told Rice, as reporters watched, before the two officials began their latest round of consultations on the North Korean nuclear issue. Tang's comments were the first public remarks about his trip. His mission marked the first time a foreign envoy was known to have met Kim since his regime tested a nuclear device on Oct. 9.
■ United States
Suspicious ship tracked
The US is monitoring a North Korean vessel that appears to be suspicious, a US intelligence source said on Thursday. "It isn't clear what it's carrying. It's a suspicious vessel," the source said. The CBS Evening News, quoting US intelligence sources, reported that a North Korean ship possibly carrying military equipment banned by UN sanctions had left that country for an unknown destination. The report said the ship was being tracked while US officials tried to determine what was on board and what to do about it. No other details were available. The UN Security Council approved financial and weapons sanctions against North Korea on Saturday after the communist state's first nuclear test on Oct. 9 drew worldwide condemnation.
Axe murderer sentenced
A court has given the death sentence to a man convicted of the gruesome axe murders of 10 people in a Taoist temple in July, state press reported yesterday. Qiu Xinghua (邱興華) was given the death penalty by the Ankang Intermediate Court in Shaanxi Province on Thursday, in a brutal case that shocked the nation, the China Daily reported. Qiu was convicted of killing 10 people aged between 12 and 62 at the Tiewadian Temple in Hanyin County on July 16, the paper said. The temple's abbot, Xiong Wancheng (熊萬成), was "disemboweled and his eyeballs, heart and lungs were found sliced and fried," earlier reports said. All of the victims were hacked in the head while they were sleeping at the temple.
Airline worker stole hair
An airline baggage courier in Melbourne pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing samples of women's hair from their lost bags and keeping them on file. Rodney Petersen, 30, had faced 110 charges of theft and stalking after taking strands of both head and pubic hair from the luggage of female passengers whose lost suitcases he had been charged with returning. Petersen collected the samples by rifling through suitcases before delivering the lost bags to their owners, but it was unclear whether he took the samples from items such as hairbrushes or from other sources. He was arrested when police stumbled on him looking through luggage in the back of his van in the Melbourne area.
Thief forgets loot
A bungling robber who held up a gas station at sword-point was arrested after returning to the crime scene to pick up the loot he had accidentally left behind, police said yesterday. The 20-year-old went back to the petrol station in the western Australian city of Perth to retrieve the forgotten booty, only to find the attendant had locked the doors and was refusing to let him in again. Police said the inept crook, who had earlier threatened the attendant with a ceremonial sword, begged his victim to hand him the haul of cash and cigarettes he had forced him to put in a bag.