© AFP | (From L) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain Prime minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron talk as they arrive in Brussels, on October 19, 2017 during the summit of European Union (EU) leaders
The EU is to consider stepping up measures aimed at punishing North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes, in a summit agreement approved by leaders on Thursday.
The bloc blacklisted the North Korean army on Monday as part of a new round of sanctions that European powers hope will help force Kim Jong-Un's regime to the bargaining table.
New measures approved by EU foreign ministers also included a complete ban on investment in the North, which carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month, and a total embargo on oil and petrol products.
EU heads of state and government meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday will give their backing to the new measures, which go beyond sanctions imposed by the UN, and warn Pyongyang that more could be on the way.
"The recent behaviour of the DPRK is unacceptable and poses a significant threat to the Korean peninsula and beyond," the leaders said in written conclusions to the summit.
"The European Council will consider further responses in close consultation with partners and the EU will continue to reach out to third countries urging the full implementation of UN sanctions."
The EU has more sanctions in force against North Korea than against any other country, and given the limited trade between them there is little scope to expand measures much further.
Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency, said last month that "there is only so far we can go further before hitting absolute zero."
EU leaders will also reiterate their demand for Pyongyang to "fully and unconditionally" abandon its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks following Pyongyang's latest nuclear test as US President Donald Trump engages in an escalating war of words with Kim.
The North's missile and nuclear capabilities have made significant progress under Kim, who told party officials this month that the country's atomic weapons were a "treasured sword" to protect it from aggression.