A United Nations committee on Tuesday endorsed a Japan- and European Union-led resolution that takes aim at North Korea's human rights violations against its citizens.
"The human rights situation in the DPRK continues to be of great concern," according to a joint Japan-EU statement read by a representative prior to the resolution's adoption. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the country's official name.
"Serious violations of human rights are committed in a widespread and systematic way, with disregard for international law, and they are too often overlooked due to the headline-grabbing missile and nuclear issue," the statement said.
The North has increased its nuclear weapons activities, carrying out its sixth and largest nuclear test in September, while also forging ahead with more ballistic missile launches, including ones that flew over Japan.
The resolution notes that more than half of the approximately 25.5 million people in North Korea suffer from major food and medical care insecurities and around a quarter of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition.
The resolution has been approved by the assembly's Third Committee on humanitarian issues for the 13th straight year, with this year's version ramping up the tone of criticism on issues including the abduction of Japanese nationals.
The document condemns the "systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons" from Japan as well as other countries.
It also urges Pyongyang to "urgently" resolve the international issue transparently, including by "ensuring the immediate return of abductees."
"Most abductees have not yet returned to their home," said Japan's Ambassador to the United Nations Koro Bessho, who addressed the long-standing issue of abductions that mainly took place in the 1970s and 1980s.
"This is also a grave violation of fundamental human rights," he noted, adding that because decades have passed, resolving the matter "can afford no further delay."
The document also condemns Pyongyang for diverting resources to the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles instead of using them for the welfare of its people.
North Korea was among a small group of countries that took aim at the resolution and disassociated itself from the consensus agreement to adopt it.
"The DPRK categorically rejects the draft resolution once again as unlawful and wicked plot document which is not worth consideration," said North Korean Ambassador Ja Song Nam.
The resolution will now be put to a vote in a plenary session of the General Assembly where it is expected to be adopted in mid-December.