Philippines releases North Korean cargo ship after UN lifts embargo

North Korean cargo ship Jin Teng, anchored at the former US naval base north of Manila on March 4, 2016.
North Korean cargo ship Jin Teng, anchored at the former US naval base north of Manila on March 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

The Philippines has released a North Korea cargo ship it seized early this month under harsher sanctions slapped by the United Nations over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

"We had no more basis to continue to hold MV Jin Teng" as the ship had been removed from a list of 31 vessels owned by Pyongyang-based Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) banned from international ports, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message.

Sources said the 6,830 deadweight tonne vessel, manned by its 21 crew members, was already on its way to China.

The ship, flying a Sierra Leone flag, was impounded after it docked on March 3 at Subic Bay, a port 135km north-west of Manila.

OMM was blacklisted by the UN in 2014 after one of its ships was found during an inspection in Panama to be carrying jet fighters and other Soviet-era weapons from Cuba hidden under bags of sugar.

Initial inspections showed the Jin Teng was carrying a cargo of palm-kernel expeller, an animal feed, but no suspicious materials.

The UN slapped tighter restrictions after North Korea staged its fourth detonation of a nuclear bomb on Jan 6, and then launched a long-range rocket on Feb 7.

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