EU raises prospect of new sanctions against North Korea

The United Nations slapped new sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missile last month

European Union member countries agreed Monday to consider imposing new sanctions on North Korea after it tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Last month, the EU expanded its sanctions blacklist after North Korea launched a volley of surface-to-ship cruise missiles off its east coast.

EU foreign ministers met on Monday to condemn the July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch as an "outright violation" of UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korea "is the country against which we (Europeans) have the most restrictive measures and we decided we will consider adopting further measures in full coordination with our international partners," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference after the meeting.

EU sanctions against North Korea date back to 2006 and are part of international efforts to halt a nuclear and ballistic missile programme that experts say is intended to give Pyongyang the capability to hit the US mainland.

The foreign ministers also stressed the need for a diplomatic rather than a military solution and kept the door open to dialogue.

"Denuclearisation of the Korean pensinula must be achieved through peaceful means. This excludes military action," Mogherini said.

The ministers agreed to follow the diplomatic lead of South Korea which has just offered to hold rare military talks with North Korea on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Mogherini said Beijing, North Korea's neighbour and main trade partner, is increasing its diplomatic efforts when asked to comment on criticism it was not putting enough pressure on Pyongyang.

"What I have seen in recent months in my dialogue with the Chinese authorities from the highest level down has been a sincere commitment to find a solution to tensions on the Korean peninsula," she said.

She said China's role will form a "consistent part" of the talks she will attend at the Asia regional forum in Manilla in August.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the foreign ministers had opposed any effort to engage in a dialogue with North Korea before it takes a concrete step.

"They have got to make serious moves toward denuclearising their country before it is right for us to begin a proper dialogue," he said, summing up what he saw as the EU position.