From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm Jonathan Smith reporting.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that North Korea risks annihilation if it starts a war. He told the North it must end its pursuit of nuclear weaponry.
In a statement, he warned the U.S. and its allies "now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth." He said any North Korean military [conflict] operation, that is, "will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."
President Trump, in a Twitter comment on Wednesday, said his first order as president after taking office in January "was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal," and on Tuesday he made clear his thoughts on North Korea.
"They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before."
Some critics have questioned the vehemence of Trump's "fire and fury" remarks. White House aides said Wednesday the words were improvised by the president before he spoke to reporters late Tuesday at his vacation home in New Jersey, but they emphasized that the president's comment certainly reflected the tone he meant to convey to North Korea.
Before he spoke out, the White House said that members of the National Security Council were clear that the president "was going to respond to North Korea's threats with a strong message in no uncertain terms."
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Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said Wednesday that hackers carried out what he called "massive and extensive" fraud against the election commission's computer system, resulting in what he asserted were fraudulent vote totals showing him well behind President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission website showed at midday Wednesday about 94 percent of ballots had been counted, with Kenyatta leading 54 percent to 45 percent in his campaign for a second term.
The former U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, was in Nairobi as one of the leaders of the U.S.-based Carter Center election observation mission. He referenced the long lines he'd seen at polling stations as a sign of the commitment of Kenyan voters.
Pakistan's former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, held a rally Wednesday to demonstrate political power just days after the country's highest court disqualified him from holding office for concealing his assets.
Critics questioned the tactics which they said "defies the rule of law" and "demonizes" the Supreme Court.
Sharif left the national capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday bound for Lahore, his native city in eastern Pakistan. He traveled in a luxury car, leading a "caravan" of around 800 private and government vehicles. Political aides say thousands of supporters are expected to join the caravan which is scheduled to cover nearly 300 kilometers over three days.
Five transgender members of the U.S. military have filed a lawsuit against President Trump, challenging his intentions to ban transgender personnel from serving in the armed forces.
Trump said on Twitter on July 26 that the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity" in the military. It's a reversal of Pentagon policy that the lawsuit said was made without consulting senior military commanders.
And the exchange of threats and harsh rhetoric between North Korea and President Trump has rattled many investors. Stock prices fell in Asia, Europe and the United States, while demand rose for safe-haven investments like gold.
On Wednesday, key stock indexes in Hong Kong, Germany and France were down by one percent or more. U.S. stocks were off as much as four-tenths of a percentage point during Wednesday's trading, but they recovered some ground by the close.
You can find more on these and other late breaking and developing stories, from around the world, around the clock, at voanews.com. I'm Jonathan Smith reporting live from VOA in Washington.
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