However, an official directly familiar with options planning within the Trump administration tells CNN the question now is whether North Korea's missile program has the level where that would be an option.
In a show of force, the U.S. military flew stealth fighter jets and advanced bombers over the Korean peninsula yesterday, in the wake of North Korea's latest missile launch over Japan.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis hinted that the United States still had military options left for dealing with North Korea, but did not elaborate when asked for details September 18.
"I will not go into details", he said.
Previously, Mattis said a war with North Korea would "involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth", in reference to Seoul. "Are we talking kinetic options as well?" a reporter asked in a follow-up.
Mr Mattis discussed several aspects of the North Korea crisis in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon, including the effect of worldwide economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on North Korea. The same day, the Mexican government gave North Korean Ambassador Kim Hyong Gil 72 hours to leave the country.
He was asked why the U.S., which has spent tens of billions of dollars on missile defence programmes in recent decades, has not tried to intercept North Korea's rockets as they demonstrate an increasingly sophisticated missile capability.
"Those missiles are not directly threatening any of us", the secretary said.
North Korea says attack on U.S. 'inevitable' thanks to Trump
Japan's prime minister said that the country's stance on North Korea's tactics of intimidation align with that of the U.S. President Trump has accused China of not putting enough pressure on Kim's regime to step back from its sabre-rattling.
The series of ballistic missile tests out of North Korea has drawn worldwide attention with president Donald Trump offering some of the strongest and most controversial rhetoric.
It has also threatened to launch missiles close to the coast of Guam, a United States island territory in the Pacific.
Last week, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile that travelled 2,300 miles and passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the northern Pacific.
In the context of countering North Korea's ballistic missiles, however, all three sides have been coordinating trilaterally in a more developed way since 2014.
The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to fresh new United Nations sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.
So they aim for the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Mattis said, "where at least we hope no ships are around".
"The idea of shooting down a missile even if it is not a direct threat is not new", a senior USA defense official said.
"The bottom line is that in the missiles, were they to be a threat, whether it be the United States territory Guam, obviously Japan, Japan's territory, that would elicit a different response from us", he said.