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EU calls North Korea's nuclear program 'illegal,' imposes new sanctions after underground test

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BRUSSELS - The European Union imposed trade and economic sanctions on North Korea while condemning "in the strongest terms" the nation's latest nuclear test.

The 27 EU finance ministers also demanded North Korea abstain from further tests and urged it to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay. The statement came as the ministers met Monday in Brussels.

Their action brings the number of North Koreans subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze to 26, and the number of sanctioned companies to 33. The ministers also banned the export of components for ballistic missiles, such as certain types of aluminum, and prohibited trade in new public bonds from North Korea.

The United States is currently negotiating in the Security Council for stronger U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang after the council quickly condemned the Feb. 12 atomic blast, the third conducted by the North since 2006.

North Korea says its nuclear program is a response to what it called a U.S. threat and has warned of further, unspecified measures of "greater intensity" if Washington remains hostile — possibly signalling it would conduct further tests if sanctions are tightened further.

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