The latest ICBM launched by North Korea has landed near the island of Hokkaido in Japan which is an ally of the United States. It is the second launch of an intercontinental missile in 24 days and in the opinion of experts, this missile is believed to have a range that could take it to the west coast of America and California.

According to estimates of American, South Korean and Japanese officials, the missile was airborne for slightly over 45 minutes, had a steep trajectory that took it roughly 2,300 miles into space. Subsequently, it arced sharply down into the sea near Hokkaido.

The Pentagon confirmed that the missile was an ICBM with a range of about 3,400 miles. A flatter trajectory could have posed a risk to some cities in the U.S.

Has North Korea mastered the technology?

New York Times reports that the latest launch was not adequate proof that North Korea has mastered the complete technology to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets in the lower 48 states. However, recently the Defense Intelligence Agency had indicated to the Trump administration that North Korea could be pursuing such an objective and that it could become a reality within a year. Its latest launch towards Japan is a pointer that Kim Jong Un wants to hasten it up. Obviously, the United States will have to rethink its strategies to prevent a direct confrontation.

In view of the secretive nature of the country, it is difficult to hazard a guess on whether it has mastered long-range missile technology, especially the portion that pertains to re-entry. During that period, the warhead has to survive intense heat that is generated and the destruction of its outer shell as it plunges through the atmosphere from space.

Moreover, it is not known if the country has acquired the ability to make nuclear warheads suitable for mounting on an ICBM.

The options before Donald Trump

Kim Jong Un has boasted that his country could catch the world by surprise and launch an ICBM to target the United States. President Donald Trump had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping could exert pressure on North Korea but, nothing concrete has materialized.

One reason for this could be that China wants to ensure continuance of the North Korea’s government because if it does collapse, there would be chaos which China wants to avoid.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, had thought of improving relations with the North and had halted deployment of THAAD missile defense system. He has, apparently, understood that such an action would not help the cause and has asked his people to get it installed.

The latest episode, with Japan in the crosshairs, means the ball is in the court of President Donald Trump. American troops are already positioned in the region and there was a thinking to carry out a preventive strike. That could escalate into a major conflict and a full-grown war which also is not desirable. He has to, now, take a decision of how best to counter the threat.