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US, Allies Want Security Council Meeting on N. Korea Rights Abuses

FILE - A South Korean university student wearing a mask depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un performs during a gathering to welcome the opening of the U.N. human rights office in Seoul, South Korea. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry report last year detai

Western powers are urging the U.N. Security Council to hold a fresh meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea, which is accused of carrying out some of the world's worst atrocities.

The United States and eight of it allies requested the meeting, according to a statement issued late Thursday by Hagar Chemali, a spokesperson for Washington's mission to the U.N.

Chemali added the U.S. would "work quickly" to schedule the meeting, but did not provide a timeframe.

The Security Council last year added the issue of North Korean human rights to its agenda, over the objections of permanent members China and Russia.

North Korea denies carrying out human rights abuses, and has rejected the Security Council action as inappropriate foreign interference. Pyongyang has not responded to the latest call for a council meeting.

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry report last year detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

That report helped lead the U.N. General Assembly to urge the Security Council to consider referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Due to the presence of China and Russia, it is not likely the Council would ever vote to refer the North to the ICC. But the moves are putting important symbolic pressure on Pyongyang, analysts say.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Thursday that Washington will keep raising the issue.

"We believe it is critical for the Council to continue to shine a light on the abuses in North Korea and speak regularly about the DPRK's human rights situation - and what we can do to change it - for as long as the crimes committed there persist," she said.