N. Korea Releasing South's Rice Ship

Associated Press

North Korea, removing the latest hurdle in improving ties with the rival South, said early today that it would release a South Korean relief ship and crew it detained on spying charges.

The Samsun Venus and its 21-member crew were to leave the east coast port of Chongjin this morning, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

The North's sudden announcement came while representatives of both Koreas negotiated in Beijing on the release of the ship, which was detained by the North last week while unloading rice.

The South threatened to kill a historic food aid deal unless the North freed the crew immediately. The North demanded a formal apology, and Seoul has expressed regret for the incident.

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