The Philippines said Monday it found no weapons aboard a North Korean vessel it had detained in compliance with a tough United Nations resolution, but said it hoped the move would help put economic pressure on the nuclear-capable state.
Foreign department spokesman Charles Jose told International Business Times that formal proceedings were underway against the vessel, the Jin Teng, and its 21-member crew, who are restricted to port since docking at Subic port northeast of Manila late last week.
"We cannot say at this time when the formal proceedings will finish. The cargo is not important," Jose told IBT. "What is important is that the Jin Teng will no longer be able to carry out any economic activity that will benefit North Korea," he said. He declined to elaborate.
He said the crew would also be deported, but he could not say when.
Coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo told BT that two inspections were carried out on the vessel over the weekend and both times "no weapons of mass destruction had been found." It is believed Jing Teng's seizing was the first of its kind since the U.N. voted to impose tougher sanctions last week against the rogue country.
"We carried out a thorough investigation of the ship and no WMD has been found," Balilo said. "Deportation proceedings are to be carried out by the Bureau of Immigration."
The ship was officially impounded Saturday, just days after the U.N. passed Resolution 2270 imposing new sanctions and tightening some of its existing measures against North Korea to thwart its nuclear weapons program.
Among others, the resolution bans leasing or chartering of vessels and aircraft crew services to the country, and registering vessels, while calling on U.N. member states to deregister any North Korean-owned or controlled vessels.
The impounded Jin Teng was inspected after it arrived Thursday from Palembang, Indonesia, loaded with palm kernel expeller, an agricultural product. It is among 31 vessels included in an asset freeze against a North Korean shipping company under the tightened sanctions.
Member states are mandated to ban any flights and deny entry into their ports of any vessel suspected of carrying prohibited items.
The resolution, which imposes the toughest sanctions so far against North Korea, "reflects the resolute stand of the international community against [Pyongyang's] provocative nuclear tests and rocket launches, which pose clear threats to international peace and stability," Jose said.
The Philippines is "strongly urging" Pyongyang to comply with the U.N. and take "concrete steps to undertake denuclearization," Jose said.
The U.N. sanctions against North Korea come after Pyongyang claimed to have tested a nuclear weapon at an underground facility near the border with China in January and its long-range rocket launch in February.
In response to the U.N.’s move, Pyongyang fired six short-range missiles into the sea last Thursday, while leader Kim Jong Un ordered North Korea's nuclear arsenal put on standby for pre-emptive use at any time. South Korea's Yonhap News Agency also reported that North Korea was ready to use its nuclear weapons at a "moment's notice," citing a report by the North's Korean Central News Agency.