UNITED NATIONS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The issue of human rights in North Korea will stay on the U.N. Security Council agenda at the request of the United States and Albania after they submitted a note on Tuesday with the support of dozens of countries - double what they received last year.
The move is likely to anger Pyongyang, which has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. Since 2006 North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions over its ballistic missiles and nuclear programs, but there are exemptions for humanitarian aid deliveries.
North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The short note to the president of the 15-member council, seen by Reuters, was signed by the United States and Albania and had the backing of 59 other countries and the European Union.
According to council procedure, if a public meeting has not been held on an agenda item in the past three years then it will be deleted unless a member objects. Then the issue will remain on the agenda list for another year.
The council has annually discussed rights in North Korea for the past three years, but behind closed doors. China and Russia object to the issue being raised in the council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security.
Between 2014 and 2017 the council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea.
In 2018 it did not discuss the issue amid now failed efforts by North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and then U.S. President Donald Trump to work toward Pyongyang's denuclearization.
The following year the United States instead convened a meeting on the threat of escalation by North Korea amid growing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs - and possibly leader Kim himself - should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities. The United States sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.