SYDNEY (AP) — She has riveted Australia for more than a decade, the everyday Aussie beach girl who somehow sparked diplomatic rows, furious protests and a media bonanza on par with America's O.J. Simpson trial. She is so notorious Down Under that she needs no last name: She's just Schapelle. Next week, after an exhaustively chronicled stint in a Balinese prison for smuggling marijuana to the Indonesian island, Schapelle Corby is expected to return to Australia. Her homecoming marks the climax of a tale that divided and in many ways defined Australia, where the obsession with the woman the nation once protectively dubbed "Our Schapelle" has not faded, even if belief in her innocence has.
BEIJING (AP) — China denied U.S. accusations that its jets conducted an unprofessional intercept of an American radiation-sniffing surveillance plane in the East China Sea and urged Washington to stop such activities. The two Chinese SU-30 jets on Wednesday approached a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft — a modified Boeing C-135 — conducting a routine mission in international airspace in accordance with international law, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said in a statement. The WC-135 crew characterized the intercept as unprofessional "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft," Hodge said.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A ferry caught fire in the Java Sea, leaving five people dead and nearly 190 others rescued, Indonesian authorities said Saturday. A Transport Ministry spokesman, Julius Adravida Barata, said he didn't know if any passengers or crew are still missing. Search and rescue agency advisories said that the accident happened on Friday night about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Masalembo Island. A nearby ship went to the aid of the stricken ferry, which was also carrying many cars and trucks. The search and rescue agency said two helicopters and a number of ships are still searching the area.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. defense chief warned Friday that a military solution to the standoff with North Korea would be "tragic on an unbelievable scale," while the North vowed to rapidly strengthen its nuclear-strike capability as long as it faces a "hostile" U.S. policy. North Korea tested a longer-range missile last weekend, which experts say was a significant advance for a weapons program that aims at having a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike America. The test triggered a new U.S.-backed push for a fresh round of U.N. sanctions against the North. At the United Nations, North Korea's deputy ambassador, Kim In Ryong, was defiant.
TOKYO (AP) — A couple of things about the WannaCry cyberattack are certain. It was the biggest in history and it's a scary preview of things to come — we're all going to have to get used to hearing the word "ransomware." But one thing is a lot less clear: whether North Korea had anything to do with it. Despite bits and pieces of evidence that suggest a possible North Korea link, experts warn there is nothing conclusive yet — and a lot of reasons to be dubious. Why, for example, would Pyongyang carry out a big hack that hurt its two closest strategic partners more than anyone else?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is calling for Cambodia to avoid threats and political intimidation as campaigning begins for local elections. Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled for three decades, and he has warned of civil war if voters do not support his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Campaigning for June 4 elections starts Saturday. The elections are seen as a bellwether of the party's support ahead of national elections in 2018. A State Department spokeswoman for East Asia, Alicia Edwards, says the U.S. is urging the Cambodian government to "guarantee a political space free from threats or intimidation" and respect freedom of expression for all its citizens.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Cabinet approved Friday a bill to let 83-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicate and allow his elder son Crown Prince Naruhito to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne. The abdication will be Japan's first in 200 years. Akihito indicated his desire to abdicate due to his age and health concerns last August, reviving a longstanding debate in Japan over the issue of imperial succession in the 2,000-year-old monarchy. Akihito was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito. Naruhito is 57. Women cannot succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne, and the government has avoided divisive issues such as whether women should be included in the current male-only succession.
LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A landslide caused by pre-monsoon rains stranded about 13,000 Indian pilgrims near a revered Hindu temple site in a mountainous area of northern India on Friday, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, said Amit Chandola, a spokesman for the state government of Uttarakhand. Authorities rushed food and drinking water to the stranded pilgrims and hoped to clear the debris soon from blocked roads leading to the Badrinath temple so the pilgrims could continue their journey, Chandola said. Massive monsoon floods and landslides in Uttarakhand state killed more than 1,000 people and flattened thousands of buildings in 2013.
BEIJING (AP) — A framework agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea marks a potentially significant step toward cooling tensions in the strategic waterway, analysts said Friday. While details of the agreement reached Thursday weren't disclosed, it is a definite sign of progress on reaching a final code of conduct that the parties committed to 15 years ago, the experts said. Until recently, progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety. For China, the code of conduct is a means to achieving its goal of keeping the U.S.
CANNES, France (AP) — Netflix's entry into the Cannes Film Festival produced new drama Friday as the first screening of its film "Okja" was met with boos for Netflix and a technical glitch that prompted the festival to restart the film and apologize to the audience. At the end of all the commotion, largely glowing reviews surfaced for director Boon Joon-ho's political fantasy about a girl and her genetically modified giant pig. The premiere of the South Korean director's latest film, featuring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, was a heated affair to begin with. It's the first of two Netflix films in Cannes' top Palme d'Or competition to premiere this year, selections that prompted protests from French distributors and led Cannes to rule out, beginning next year, streaming-only films.