A spokesman hinted that Japan's newly installed conservative government might seek to revise an official 1993 apology to women forced into sexual slavery during World War II, a move that would most likely outrage South Korea and possibly other former victims of Japanese militarism. Speaking a day after the new Cabinet was named, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga refused to say clearly whether new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would uphold the apology. Suga said at a news conference that it would be "desirable for experts and historians to study" the statement, which acknowledged the Imperial Army's involvement in forcing thousands of Asian and Dutch women to provide sex for Japanese soldiers.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed "expeditious" prosecution of the accused in the gang rape of a student in New Delhi as the victim was transferred to a Singapore hospital in critical condition. Singh said his government will examine current laws and punishments for such aggravated crimes against women as he moved to maintain calm after the attack that sparked two days of rioting and prompted police to shut down some subway stations. Amid reports of more cases of sexual assault, the Cabinet appointed a retired judge to investigate the Dec. 16 incident aboard a moving bus and fix lapses.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed his health minister, the only woman to serve in Iran's Cabinet since the 1979 Islamic revolution, after she publicly criticized the government's response to acute shortages of medicine imports, an indirect consequence of the Western sanctions imposed on the country. Accounts in state-run news media of the dismissal of Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi did not provide an explanation for it. Vahid-Dastjerdi, a gynecologist, was appointed in 2009 and is considered an advocate of women's rights. Last month, she said an allocation of foreign currency needed to buy medicines abroad was inadequate.
Egypt's chief prosecutor ordered an investigation into allegations that opposition leaders committed treason by inciting supporters to overthrow Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The inquiry was launched a day after the president called for a dialogue with the opposition to heal rifts opened in the bitter fight over an Islamist-drafted constitution just approved in a referendum. The opposition dismissed the allegations and decried the investigation as a throwback to Hosni Mubarak's regime. The allegations, targeted opposition leaders Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the U.N. nuclear agency; former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi.
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office as Brian Schatz was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol as Hawaii's new senator. He succeeds fellow Democrat Daniel Inouye, who died last week at age 88 after 50 years in the Senate. Schatz, 40, who was lieutenant governor before being appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, had flown to Washington hours earlier with President Obama. He will become Hawaii's senior senator in the new Congress. Sen. Daniel Akaka, 88, is retiring after 22 years, and Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono was elected to succeed him.