The EU is preparing to boost its own sanctions against North Korea, the bloc's diplomatic chief said Thursday, as part of international efforts to punish the rogue state for its latest nuclear test.
The blast on Sunday, North Korea's sixth nuclear test and most powerful to date, triggered global condemnation and calls by the United States, South Korea, Japan and others for stronger UN Security Council sanctions against the North.
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said she would urge the bloc's foreign ministers meeting in Tallinn to support a new Security Council resolution and adopt tougher economic measures.
"Today we are facing a different level of threat that is clearly a threat to global peace and security and the entire non-proliferation regime," she said.
"I will put forward to ministers to work in the coming days to increase EU autonomous sanctions."
The EU already has a broad range of sanctions in place against the North, and while work on new measures will begin on Thursday, Mogherini said no formal decision was expected immediately.
"Our European line is very clear on this: more economic pressure, more diplomatic pressure, unity with the regional and international partners we have," she said.
After talks with the bloc's 28 foreign ministers, Mogherini said work would now begin on preparing new EU measures.
Fresh EU sanctions would likely target sectors of the North Korean economy that bring in the cash that funds the regime's nuclear programme -- ports, fishing and a possible oil embargo, a diplomat told AFP.
But Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser said there was limited scope for the EU to increase its sanctions.
"The EU measures on North Korea are the toughest, the strictest measures or sanctions that the EU is applying to any third country," he said.
"The trade relations between EU and North Korea are not massive by any measure. So there is only so far we can go further before hitting absolute zero."
Another option would be to blacklist Kim Jong-Un himself, a move that would freeze his assets in the EU and ban him from flying to or through its territory, the source said.
Washington has asked the UN to put an oil embargo on the North, but faces resistance from Russia and Pyongyang's chief ally China, which has long been reluctant to take measures that could trigger instability or a refugee exodus on its border.
A draft Security Council resolution seen by AFP takes aim directly at the North Korean leadership, proposing adding Kim to the UN's own sanctions blacklist.