A key UN committee unanimously passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses in North Korea on Tuesday, the first time not even the North's sole ally China voted against it.
The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly has adopted the North Korea Human Rights Resolution every year since 2005, but it had to be put to a vote each time.
The unanimous decision appears to reflect increasing global recognition of the seriousness of human rights abuses in North Korea. The resolution is expected to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly next month.
An official with the South Korean delegation to the UN said North Korea appears to have refrained from seeking to put the resolution to a vote for fear that such an attempt could backfire in the face of overwhelming support.
China reiterated that it cannot agree to a resolution targeting a specific country but made no attempt to block it.
The resolution expresses concerns over torture, forced detention, political prison camps, guilt by association, limits on free speech, expression and thought, and human rights abuses against women and children in North Korea. It also urges Pyongyang to halt the forced repatriation of defectors and calls for the resumption of reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.