A U.N. General Assembly committee Tuesday voted in favor of the draft resolution condemning the country's human rights record and calling for "targeted sanctions."
Before the vote, Choe Myong Nam, North Korea's representative at the U.N., issued a familiar warning, saying that seeking to punish the country on human rights "is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests."
"The reality is the need for us to maintain powerful state capability in order to defend our people's human rights," he said. "The outrageous and unreasonable human rights campaign staged by the United States and it followers in their attempts to eliminate the state and social system of the (North Korea) is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests."
The 111-19 vote, with 55 abstentions, is merely a recommendation. The General Assembly does not have the power to refer the regime or its leader, Kim Jong Un, to the ICC.
The non-binding measure will come up for a vote by the General Assembly in December.
The authority to refer a country to the ICC lies only with the U.N. Security Council, a 15-member body charged with maintaining global security.
The five permanent members at the core of the Security Council, including China and Russia, wield veto powers.
Opponents of the resolution -- including China, Russia and Cuba -- said the measure was politically manipulated and would set a precedent for other nations to be targeted in the future.
The North Korean representative told the U.N. gathering Tuesday that the resolution "provoked confrontation" and "failed to reflect the reality on the ground."
China is likely to use its veto against the resolution. Chinese officials have repeatedly said efforts to send North Korea's leadership to the ICC "won't help improve a country's human rights condition." North Korea's longtime ally has never wavered in its support for Pyongyang.
North Korea's leaders have been accused of employing murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence and mass starvation to prop up the isolated regime and exercise total control over its citizens.
North Korea has repeatedly denied the existence of political camps or human rights abuses in the country, and has accused the United States and its allies of seeking to discredit and overthrow the North Korean leadership.
In February, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea published a 400-page report documenting widespread torture and abuse, and called for urgent action, including the referral of its findings to the ICC for possible prosecution.
Last month, U.S. military officials said they believe the North Koreans have the capability to mount a nuclear warhead on an intermediate or long-range missile. If true, it represents a significant increase in North Korea's quest for a long-range nuclear weapon.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said he believes the North Koreans have the "capability" to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, but stressed they have not tested any such device.
In April, North Korea announced that it wouldn't rule out "a new form of a nuclear test" to strengthen its nuclear deterrent capabilities. Experts have speculated that that could refer to the testing of a uranium bomb.
The regime in Pyongyang is known to have conducted three previous tests, all of them believed to be based on plutonium. The most recent one took place in February 2013.