The Philippines has released a cargo ship linked to North Korea that it had seized as part of tough new United Nations sanctions imposed on the reclusive country, an official said on Friday.
“There is no longer any basis to continue to hold the MV Jin Teng,” said Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, referring to the 4,355-ton vessel that had been held since March 4 in Subic Bay, a port 50 miles north of Manila.
The cargo ship Jin Teng docked at Subic Bay in the Philippines after it was seized under UN sanctions. Image: Jun Dumaguing / AP
The ship flew a Sierra Leone flag and was linked through registration to other countries, Philippine officials said, but it carried a crew of 21 North Korean sailors and was one of 31 vessels that had been listed as owned by North Korea under an annex to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270. The resolution was passed to punish Pyongyang for a nuclear test it conducted in January and a long-range rocket test last month.
The Jin Teng and three other vessels were later removed from the list of ships to be searched and seized under the resolution, Reuters reported this week. The report said China had asked for their removal from the list, quoting its ambassador to the United Nations as saying that the ships did not belong to Ocean Maritime Management Company, a North Korean shipping firm targeted by the sanctions.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it searched the ship and found no weapons or other contraband. The vessel was carrying palm kernel expeller, a commodity often used as livestock feed, the Coast Guard said. In seizing the ship, the Philippines became the first country in the world to enforce the new sanctions.
The ship left the Philippines on Thursday bound for China, with the North Korean crew members aboard, according to the Coast Guard.