Three weeks ago, North Korea launched a game-changing ICBM, and they followed that up today with another missile launch. It’s not clear yet whether this is another Hwasong-14, but its trajectory and its time in flight suggest that it was another ICBM:

North Korea has taken another step toward achieving its stated goal of being able to send a nuclear weapon to the United States mainland, apparently firing another ballistic missile late Friday night. However, it was not immediately clear whether the missile was an intercontinental one capable of reaching the continental United States.

North Korea appeared to launch the missile just after 11 p.m. local time, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said. South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened an emergency national security meeting. …

The test comes barely three weeks after North Korea fired its first missile technically capable of reaching the United States, launched as July 4 dawned in Asia.

That missile, which North Korea called the Hwasong-14 (or Mars-14), was fired from Panghyon, a northwestern part of the country not far from the border with China, and flew to an altitude of 1,741 miles – seven times as high as the International Space Station. It landed 577 miles from its launch site, splashing down in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

It’s not as if North Korea hasn’t had opportunities to choose a different direction. After the previous missile launch, South Korea had tried to offer an olive branch to Pyonygang:

The South Korean government made a rare formal overture to its counterpart in the North on Monday, proposing that the longstanding rivals open new military talks along their shared border. It is the first such offer under South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, who signaled his willingness to talk with Pyongyang during his campaign earlier this year.

“We make the proposal for a meeting … aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” the country’s defense ministry said in a statement, according to the Agence France-Presse news service.

The proposed talks — which would be held Friday in the border town of Panmunjom, if accepted — would be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since 2015. They would also come roughly two weeks after North Korea conducted its latest missile test this year, launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea never responded to that overture. Instead, they’ve let their missiles do the talking. Even if this launch doesn’t turn out to be an ICBM, it’s clear from the earlier launch that they have that capability. When they gain the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead enough to fit on top of those missiles, any further launches could precipitate a war on the Korean peninsula. If that’s not what China wants, their window for preventing it is closing. Clearly, positive diplomacy from all other quarters isn’t deterring Kim Jong-un from his determination to have a military confrontation with the US and its Pacific Rim allies.

Update: The Pentagon settled one debate:

That will prompt another debate about the next steps to prevent a missile attack on the US.