The U.N. Security Council took up the issue of North Korea's bleak human rights situation for the first time Monday, a groundbreaking step toward possibly holding the country and leader Kim Jong Un accountable for alleged crimes against humanity.
The meeting appeared to be the first time any country's human rights situation has been scheduled for ongoing debate by the U.N.'s most powerful body, meaning that the issue now can be brought up at any time, according to the Associated Press.
North Korean diplomat Kim Song rejected the decision to override China's and Russia's objections, accusing the United States of raising the issue as a political weapon to pressure Pyongyang.
He said a decision on how to respond to the council decision would be made in the North Korean capital.
U.S. envoy Samantha Power described North Korea as "a living nightmare", and said a U.N. report showed the country's brutality.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry report, released in February, details wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.
Last week, the U.N. General Assembly put the international spotlight on North Korea when it adopted a landmark resolution calling on the Security Council to consider referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
North Korea has called the dozens of people who fled the North and aided the Commission of Inquiry "human scum."
Eleven of the 15 Council members voted Monday in support of putting North Korea on the agenda. Chad and Nigeria abstained.
The Security Council's discussion of North Korea previously was limited to its nuclear weapons program, but now all aspects of humans rights in the reclusive country can be scrutinized.
It is not likely the Security Council would vote to send North Korea to the ICC. China, as a permanent member of the Council, could veto any such attempt.