UNITED NATIONS, March 9 (Reuters) - The United States will hold an informal meeting of United Nations Security Council members next week on human rights abuses in North Korea, a move likely to anger Pyongyang and spur opposition from China and Russia.
"The DPRK's human rights violations and abuses threaten international peace and security and are directly linked to the country's unlawful weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs," the United States and Albania said in a note - seen by Reuters - promoting next Friday's meeting.
Albania is currently an elected member of the Security Council and is co-hosting the meeting with the United States.
The 15-member Security Council has regularly discussed human rights in North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, since 2014. But China and Russia object to the issue being raised in the council.
Pyongyang rejects accusations of human rights abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation in North Korea. The country has been under U.N. sanctions over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs since 2006.
North Korea's U.N. mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on next week's meeting.
The aim of the informal meeting is to spotlight rights abuses and "identify opportunities for the international community to promote accountability," according to the U.S. and Albanian note.
They said that during the COVID-19 pandemic North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's government responded with "further isolation and repression, including shoot-to-kill orders."
"The DPRK government has increased efforts to suppress fundamental freedoms and the free flow of information, with reports of thousands of new arrests and harsh imprisonments. Today, a total of 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners are reported to be in prison in the DPRK ," according to the note.
The meeting comes amid heightened international tensions. Kim Yo Jong, Kim's powerful sister, has threatened to turn the Pacific Ocean into a "firing range" and warned that any move to shoot down North Korea's test missiles would be a declaration of war.
Pyongyang has launched dozens of ballistic missiles in the past year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. But China and Russia oppose any further action by the Security Council, arguing that putting further pressure on North Korea would not be constructive. The pair vetoed a U.S.-led push to impose more U.N. sanctions on North Korea in May last year.