A letter from Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj of Denmark, this month's president of the panel, invited the submission of candidates in a letter Friday to General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, saying "a (U.N.) member state may present candidates ... at any stage of the process."
She called it "one of the most essential decisions for the United Nations, the selection of the secretary-general."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan steps down at the end of his second five year term Dec. 31.
According to the U.N. Charter, the council sends its choice to the assembly for approval.
Going by tradition, through geographic rotation, it is time for Asia to produce a candidate to be chief administrative officer of the world organization.
But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says not necessarily so -- it's only tradition. He thinks the next secretary-general should be the best man -- or woman -- for the job, regardless of where he or she may be from. There is also an unwritten rule the job never goes go to someone from one of the five countries with permanent membership of the Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Eastern European nations have never had a shot at the top U.N. post and it would only be fair to give them a chance now, some argue. But that argument doesn't seem to have gained much traction.
As for Asian candidates, they are queuing up. Annan met with three of them, one each from Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand, during his visit to East and Southeast Asia last month, but he gave no endorsements.