Canberra, Jul 4 (AP/UNB) — An Australian student released after a week in detention in North Korea described his condition to reporters Thursday in Beijing as "very good" without saying what happened.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced to Parliament that Alek Sigley, 29, had been released hours earlier following intervention from Swedish diplomats on Wednesday and had been taken to the Australian Embassy in Beijing.
Sigley looked relaxed when he arrived at Beijing airport. He did not respond to reporters' questions about what had happened in Pyongyang.
"I'm OK, I'm OK, I'm good. I'm very good," Sigley said.
His father, Gary Sigley, said his son would soon be reunited with his Japanese wife Yuka Morinaga in Tokyo.
"He's fine. He's in very good spirits. He's been treated well," the father told reporters in his hometown of Perth.
Sigley's friend and fellow student of North Korea, University of Technology Sydney academic Bronwyn Dalton, said she had recently spoken Sigley's wife, who was thrilled by the news.
"We were jumping up and down and we love Sweden," Dalton told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"He's a fine, young, emerging Asian scholar, he is very applied to his studies. I really doubted whether he did actually anything wrong by the regime," Dalton said.
Swedish diplomats had raised concerns about Sigley with North Korean authorities in Pyongyang where Australia does not have an embassy.
"Alek is safe and well. Swedish authorities advised the Australian government that they met with senior officials from the DPRK yesterday and raised the issue of Alek's disappearance on Australia's behalf," Morrison said, using the official acronym for North Korea.
Morrison thanked Swedish authorities for "their invaluable assistance in securing Alek's prompt release."
"This outcome demonstrates the value of discrete behind-the-scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments," Morrison said.
The Pyongyang university student and tour guide had been out of contact with family and friends in Japan and Australia since Tuesday last week.
He had been active in social media about his experiences in North Korea and had boasted about the extraordinary freedom he had been allowed as one of the few foreign students living in Pyongyang.
Morrison's announcement was the first confirmation that he had been detained.
Morrison said he discussed Sigley's disappearance with other world leaders attending the Group of 20 summit last week and accepted offers to find out what happened to him. Morrison had dined with President Donald Trump in Osaka but declined to say with whom he had discussed Sigley's disappearance.
North Korea has been accused in the past of detaining Westerners and using the detainees as political pawns to gain concessions. Australia advises people to reconsider their need to travel to North Korea and warns that foreigners have been subject to arbitrary arrests and long detentions.
Leonid Petrov, an Australian National University expert on North Korea and friend of Sigley, last week speculated that Sigley had been "deliberately cut off from means of communications" temporarily because Trump was in the region.
Trump had his third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday and became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea when he crossed the demarcation line at the Demilitarized Zone. They held a 50-minute meeting inside a building on the south side of the border and agreed to resume nuclear negotiations but didn't disclose details.
Melbourne, Jun 4 (AP/UNB) — A gunman was arrested after killing at least four people and wounding several others Tuesday in the tropical Australian city of Darwin, officials and media said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the incident was not terrorism related. "This is a terrible act of violence that has already, I'm advised, taken the lives of four people," Morrison told reporters in London.
A 45-year-old man was in custody following the shooting, Northern Territory Police Duty Superintendent Lee Morgan told Guardian Australia.
"At this stage, we've got reports of four deceased and a number of other people who have been shot," Morgan said.
Police contacted by The Associated Press declined to comment.
A man fired a pump action shotgun at the Palms Hotel in the Darwin suburb of Woolner in the late afternoon, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Police attended three crime scenes in the city of 100,000 related to the gunman, ABC said.
Police earlier said the suspect was described as wearing a high-visibility shirt and driving a white dual-cab pickup truck, Australian Associated Press reported.
Sydney, May 29 (AP/UNB)— The Australian teenager who cracked an egg on the head of a politician for his remarks about the New Zealand mosque massacre has donated almost $70,000 to people affected by the killings.
Will Connolly, 17, became known worldwide as "Egg Boy" for assaulting right-wing federal Sen. Fraser Anning, who had drawn scorn for saying Muslim immigration was to blame for the March massacre, in which 51 people were killed.
As police investigated the incident, supporters of Connolly raised 99,922 Australian dollars ($69,171) through two crowdfunding accounts to pay for his envisaged legal fees.
But a law firm volunteered to handle the case for free in which Connolly escaped charge.The Melbourne youth announced on Instagram on Wednesday he had donated the money to two support groups for people affected by the Christchurch shootings — the Christchurch Foundation, and Victim Support.
"Finally!!! After a huge amount of red tape, $99,922.36 has today been transferred to the Christchurch Foundation and Victims Support," Connolly posted.
"I decided to donate all monies to help provide some relief to the victims of the massacre ... it wasn't mine to keep."
He added: "To the victims of the Tragedy, I whole heartedly hope that this can bring some relief to you.
"Keep spreading the love."
Victim Support confirmed it had received a portion of Connolly's fund, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Police issued an official caution to Connolly over the incident, which occurred at a political rally in Melbourne. They also investigated Anning, who twice struck the teen after being egged, but also opted not to charge the 69-year-old, saying he'd acted in self-defense.
Anning, who had sat in Australia's Senate as an independent lawmaker after quitting the One Nation party early last year, is no longer in Parliament after he was voted out in the country's May 18 general election.
Beijing, May 29 (AP/UNB) — Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit by lasers while exercising in the South China Sea, forcing them to land as a precaution, a witness said, describing the latest incident in the disputed waters where China has stepped up the defense of its sweeping territorial claims.
Scholar Euan Graham, who was onboard the Royal Australian Navy flagship HMAS Canberra on a voyage from Vietnam to Singapore, said that the lasers had been pointed from passing fishing vessels while the Canberra was being trailed by a Chinese warship.
China maintains a robust maritime militia in the South China Sea composed of fishing vessels equipped to carry out missions just short of combat. China claims the strategic waterway virtually in its entirety and is sensitive to all foreign naval action in the area, especially by the U.S. and allies such as Australia.
"Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China's maritime militia? It's hard to say for sure, but similar incidents have occurred in the western Pacific," Euan Graham wrote on the website The Strategist run by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute , an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Canberra. The account of the incident appeared Tuesday.
Similar incidents involving lasers and the Chinese military have also been reported as far away as Djibouti, where the U.S. and China have bases. Last year, the U.S. complained to China after lasers were directed at aircraft in the Horn of Africa nation that resulted in minor injuries to two American pilots.
China denied that its forces targeted the U.S. military aircraft.
Graham said that while bridge-to-bridge communications with the Chinese during the voyage were courteous, the Chinese requested the Australian warships notify them in advance of any corrections to their course.
That was something the Australian navy was "not about to concede while exercising its high-seas freedoms," Graham wrote.
He wrote that the constant presence of Chinese vessels shadowing foreign ships appeared to indicate that the Chinese fleet had grown large enough to allow it to have vessels lying in wait for just such orders.
He said their trailing actions also appeared to show that China's over-the-horizon surveillance capability was also maturing, supported by technology based at points such as Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly island group where China has built military installations and an airstrip atop coral reefs.
Five other governments have claims in the South China Sea that overlap with China's, and the U.S. and its allies insist on the right to sail and fly anywhere in the area is permitted under international law, despite China's differing interpretation of such guidelines.
Graham, who is executive director of La Trobe Asia at La Trobe University in Australia, was one of several academics invited to observe Australia's engagement exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.
Sydney, May 29 (AP/UNB) — Scott Morrison was sworn in as Australia's prime minister on Wednesday, 11 days after retaining the position in the country's general election.
Along with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Morrison was sworn in by Queen Elizabeth's official representative in Australia, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, at a ceremony in the capital, Canberra.
Also sworn in was Morrison's revamped Cabinet, which includes an equal-record seven women, and Australia's first Aboriginal federal cabinet minister, Ken Wyatt.
Wyatt, the new indigenous affairs minister, received a standing ovation from the small gathering at the ceremony when he stepped up to be sworn in. He wore a traditional kangaroo skin, called a "booka", given to him by indigenous people from his home state, Western Australia.
Morrison became Australia's 30th prime minister through an internal party vote last August in which he replaced Malcolm Turnbull as chief of the ruling Liberal Party.
It was the fourth switch of Australia's leader through an internal party vote in just eight years, sparking heated criticism from many voters. Yet Morrison was returned to his post in the May 18 election, and with an increased majority for the conservative Liberal-National party coalition.
With voting continuing in two close seats, the coalition was ahead in 77 seats, with the opposition Labor Party leading in 68, and with six seats having been secured by independent candidates and minor parties. A total of 76 seats is needed for majority government.
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, Morrison said his "hungry, committed and united" team would focus on the aspirations of ordinary Australians during this coalition government's third successive term in power.
"They are the reason we have the opportunity and the great privilege to serve them each and every day," he told colleagues on Tuesday, at coalition lawmakers' first meeting since the election.
"We must burn for the Australian people every single day that we have this privilege of serving them, in this party room and as a government."
Australia's 46th Parliament is expected to open in the first week of July.