SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a high-angle ballistic missile that landed between the Korean Peninsula and Japan early Thursday morning, continuing its provocative series of weapons tests. The launch prompted Japan to issue an evacuation order for a northern island which it later withdrew, showing the vigilance of North Korea’s neighbors over its evolving missile threats.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile launched from near the North Korean capital Pyongyang flew into the waters off the North’s east coast. The statement described the missile as having a medium or longer range, but did not say how far it flew.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that North Korea launched a possible ICBM at a high angle. Hamada said the missile did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he was planning a National Security Council meeting to discuss the launch. When asked about the accuracy of Japan’s information release for future North Korean launches, Kishida said the government was checking related information, including alerts.

North Korea regularly launches test missiles into the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. All of its previous ICBM launches have been in the area, but on elevated trajectories to avoid neighboring countries.

South Korea and Japan generally do not issue evacuation orders for North Korean launches unless they determine that the weapons flew in the direction of their territories.

But after Thursday’s launch, the Japanese government urged people on the northernmost island of Hokkaido to seek refuge. The government then corrected and retracted its missile alert, saying its analysis showed there was no chance of a missile landing near Hokkaido.

It was not clear why Japan issued the order for a missile that did not land near the island, but the incident suggested it was being cautious about North Korea’s evolving missile threats.

Last October, Japanese authorities issued a similar evacuation order when a North Korean intermediate-range missile flew over Japan in a launch that demonstrated the potential to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam. At the time, Japanese authorities alerted residents in the northeastern regions to seek shelter and stopped the trains, though no damage was reported before the weapon landed in the Pacific.

Thursday’s launch came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to upgrade his nuclear arsenal in more «practical and offensive» ways.

North Korea has launched about 100 missiles this year and in 2022, many of them nuclear-capable weapons that put the continental United States, South Korea and Japan within striking distance.

There are concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in more than five years since it unveiled a new type of nuclear warhead earlier this month. Foreign experts debate whether North Korea has developed warheads small and light enough to fit on its most advanced missiles.

South Korean officials say North Korea has not responded to calls from South Korea on a set of cross-border inter-Korean hotlines for about a week. The North’s alleged suspension of communications on those channels could be worrying because they are meant to prevent accidental clashes along the disputed western maritime border between the rivals.

On Tuesday, South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Youngse, Seoul’s point man in the North, expressed «strong regret» over North Korea’s «one-sided and irresponsible attitude» over the hotlines. Kwon also warned of unspecified legal action over the North’s use of South Korean assets in an inter-Korean industrial park now stalled in North Korea.

South Korea withdrew its companies from Kaesong in North Korea in 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test, removing the last remaining major symbol of cooperation between the rivals.

The advancement of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is expected to be a major topic during a summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden later this month in Washington. The Yoon government has been seeking stronger assurances from the US that it will safely and quickly use all its military capabilities, including nuclear, to protect South Korea in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.