SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent his first special envoy to China on Wednesday, amid signs that Mr. Kim's government was trying to mend strained ties with Beijing and also was seeking breaches in the tightening ring of economic and diplomatic pressure over its nuclear weapons development.
Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, who serves as director of the general political bureau of the North Korean People's Army, met in Beijing with Wang Jiarui, the head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party, said Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, in a report that gave no details of the talks.
His trip is North Korea's first serious dabbling in diplomacy after months of bellicose pronouncements, including threats to launch nuclear strikes at the United States and its allies. Mr. Choe, 63, is the first senior North Korean official to visit China since August and the first to go there in the capacity as Mr. Kim's special envoy.
Reactor decision criticized
TOKYO -- Japan Atomic Power Co. said a decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority that will keep one of its nuclear reactors off line is "unacceptable."
The regulator, set up after the Fukushima quake and tsunami disaster in March 2011, Wednesday approved a report by its advisory board that said the No. 2 reactor at Japan Atomic's Tsuruga plant has been built on an active earthquake fault.
That violates safety regulations for nuclear plants, Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the regulator, said Wednesday. He declined to say outright that the ruling means the regulator would deny an application to restart the reactor in western Japan.
Octogenarian Everest rivalry
KATMANDU, Nepal -- An 80-year-old Japanese extreme skier who climbed Mount Everest five years ago, but just missed becoming the oldest man to reach the summit, was back on the mountain Wednesday to make another attempt at the title.
Unfortunately for Yuichiro Miura, the 81-year-old man who nabbed the record just before Mr. Miura could in 2008 is fast on his heels.
Mr. Miura was already in the "death zone," the steep, icy, oxygen-deficient area close to the 29,035-foot summit. His rival, Min Bahadur Sherchan, from Nepal, was at the base camp preparing for his own attempt on the summit next week.
Morsi claims a victory
CAIRO -- The safe release Wednesday of seven men kidnapped by suspected militants in Sinai brought a victory for Egypt's Islamist president after months of criticism that his government is mismanaging the country.
Mohammed Morsi lauded the release as a show of how unified and strong his leadership is and urged his opponents to work with his government in dealing with Egypt's multiple crises.
Key questions remained over how the release of the six police conscripts and a military border guard was negotiated and whether the militants suspected of kidnapping them will be pursued.
Tax warning for Google
LONDON -- Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt to take notice of public anger over corporate tax avoidance, said an aide from his Liberal Democrat party.
At a meeting Monday at Prime Minister David Cameron's office, Mr. Clegg made remarks to the 20 business leaders there, saying voters in many countries are concerned about tax avoidance "as Google [is] finding out," according to the aide, who briefed reporters in London Wednesday.
Poland face transplant
WARSAW, Poland -- A 33-year-old Polish man received a face transplant just three weeks after being disfigured in a workplace accident, in what his doctors said Wednesday is the fastest time frame to date for such an operation. It was Poland's first face transplant.
In a photo taken Tuesday, just six days after the surgery, the patient, identified only by his first name, Grzegorz, was shown giving a thumbs-up sign from his hospital bed. He is now being watched for any potential infections.
Grzegorz was injured in an April 23 accident at his job at a stone mason's workshop near the southwestern city of Wroclaw when a machine used to cut stone tore off most of his face and crushed his upper jaw.