North Korea conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch in a month on Thursday, possibly testing a new weapon system that is more mobile and harder to detect.
According to South Korean officials, North Korea launched the missile towards the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, extending its provocative series of missile tests.
The evacuation order was later rescinded, but it demonstrates the vigilance of North Korea's neighbours in the face of its evolving missile threat.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea reported that the missile launched from a high angle near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan after a 620-mile voyage.
They described the missile's range as either medium or lengthy.
The US National Security Council and the Japanese defence minister referred to it as a long-range missile.
The military of South Korea believes that North Korea launched a new type of ballistic missile, potentially using solid fuel, according to a defence official who requested anonymity due to official regulations.
If the launch involved a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, it would be North Korea's first demonstration of such a weapon.
Before a weapon is launched, liquid fuel must be injected, whereas solid-propellant weapons are more difficult to detect in advance because the power is already inside.
The previous ICBM tests conducted by North Korea all involved liquid-fueled weapons.
A solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile is one of the vital high-tech weapons North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to develop to counter what he deems to be US military threats.
A multiwarhead missile, a nuclear-powered submarine, a hypersonic missile, and a spy satellite are among the additional weaponry he desires.
The latest launch, according to US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, "unnecessarily escalates tensions and threatens to destabilize the security situation in the region."
Ms Watson stated that the United States would take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of the American homeland and its allies in South Korea and Japan.
During an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) in South Korea, officials denounced the launch and emphasized the need to strengthen trilateral security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that a meeting of the Japanese National Security Council would be held to discuss the launch.
In a telephone conversation, the top nuclear envoys of Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo called for a "decisive and united international response" to North Korean provocations and increased efforts to halt illicit North Korean activities that purportedly fund its weapons program.
North Korea routinely conducts missile test launches between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Its previous ICBM launches occurred in the region but on high trajectories to circumvent neighbouring nations.
South Korea and Japan do not typically issue evacuation orders for North Korean missile launches unless they determine that missiles flew in their direction.
Yasukazu Hamada, the Japanese minister of defence, told reporters that the Thursday North Korean missile launch did not reach Japan's exclusive economic zone.
However, the Japanese government implored Hokkaido's northernmost island residents to seek shelter.
The government then corrected and retracted its missile alert, stating that its analysis revealed no chance of a missile landing near Hokkaido.
It was unclear why Japan issued the order, but the incident suggested that it was concerned about the evolving missile threat posed by North Korea.
Mr Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, was asked about the integrity of Japan's information dissemination regarding future North Korean launches. He responded that the government is examining relevant information, including notifications.