By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - North Korea told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that it would consider any discussion of the country's human rights situation a "serious provocation" and Pyongyang would "respond strongly."
North Korea's U.N. ambassador Kim Song delivered the warning in a letter, which was seen by Reuters. Diplomats said several members of the 15-member council planned to request a meeting this month on human rights abuses in North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have met three times since June last year in a bid to broker a deal that Washington hopes will lead to North Korea dismantling its nuclear and missile programs. But no progress had been made and Pyongyang has carried out a series of short range ballistic missile tests.
The United States is president of the Security Council for December.
Kim Song wrote that any meeting on human rights would be an "act of conniving at and siding with the U.S.' hostile policy, which will lead to undermining rather than helping reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue."
A minimum nine council members need to support a request for the meeting in order to defeat any attempt to block it. Between 2014 and 2017 China failed to stop the annual discussion.
Last year the United States dropped a push for the council to meet on human rights because it did not have enough support, diplomats said. They could have tried again in January when five new members rotated onto the council, but they did not.
North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of human rights abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. It demands they be removed. Pyongyang has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missiles and nuclear programs.
"If the Security Council would push through the meeting on 'human rights issue' of the DPRK ... the situation on the Korean Peninsula would take a turn for the worse again," the letter said.
North Korea has given Washington until the end of the year to show more flexibility in talks, raising concerns among some diplomats that it could next year resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been suspended since 2017.
Trump has repeatedly held up this suspension of tests as a major achievement of his engagement with North Korea.
A 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs - and possibly leader Kim himself - should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)