North Korea slammed EU sanctions imposed against its senior officials earlier this week as a "despicable political provocation" and the result of "a psychotic way of thinking".
The EU Council said Monday it will slap sanctions on a dozen individuals and four entities in six countries - including China, Russia and North Korea - for human rights violations.
The move prompted immediate retaliation by Beijing, triggering an aggressive diplomatic row between China - the North's key backer - and EU nations.
A spokesperson for the North's foreign ministry denounced the new measures as a "sinister political tool" triggered by the EU's "inveterate repugnancy coupled with a psychotic way of thinking," in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency late Tuesday.
The officials targeted by the EU sanctions are North Korea's State Security Minister Jong Kyong Thaek, Public Security Minister Ri Yong Gil and the Central Public Prosecutor's Office.
The EU accuses them of "serious human rights violations", ranging from torture and arbitrary executions to widespread forced labour and sexual violence against women.
North Korea is also accused by the United Nations of "systematic, generalised and flagrant" violations of human rights, ranging from torture to extrajudicial killings.
Pyongyang rejects these accusations as anti-regime propaganda and says it protects and promotes "real human rights."