The United Nations refugee agency says number of people seeking asylum in industrialized nations in 2012 rose to nearly 500,000, the highest level in 10 years, writes Stephanie Nebehay. Afghans were the largest group of asylum seekers, followed by Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Somalians. "I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives," says Antonio Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees.
The United Nations will investigate an alleged chemical attack that killed 26 people near Aleppo, Syria. The inquiry will explore "the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasized the need for all sides to cooperate. "I am of course aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons," he added.
Empowering girls is a proven method of alleviating poverty and that is why the United Nations is seeking to empower girls and women, UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin told a National Press Club audience. "[W]hile it's never been part of my job title, women and girls have always been part of my focus and part of my passion," Calvin says. "Girl power, to me, is one of global development's most potent weapons in the fight against poverty," she added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping today told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that his country will increase support for the United Nations. Xi says China backs UN efforts on creating peace and fostering development in Africa and elsewhere.
North Korea has threatened to attack U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam in response to U.S. provocation. Meanwhile, South Korea reports that banks and broadcasters were affected by a hacking attack that possibly came from North Korea via a Chinese Internet address.