The US show of force over the Korean peninsula on Saturday, when two B-1B stealth bombers flew over the peninsula for the first time since 2017, was just part of a major joint exercise intended to ensure that the United States has a “ready force”. in the region, according to the chief of staff of the United States Air Force.

“It was all part of Exercise Vigilant Storm, an exercise that we have been operating in over time,” Gen. CQ Brown Jr. told VOA in an exclusive interview Monday.

“This is another one of the exercises that we have done, and we will continue to do, to ensure that readiness. We have an ironclad alliance with the Republic of Korea, and it’s all just part of an exercise and our continuing education. ,” he added.

Ahead of the flight of the B-1B bombers, which US officials say came from Guam, North Korea fired four short-range ballistic missiles off its west coast on Saturday morning.

North Korea said on Monday that its recent missile launches over the past few days were mock strikes against South Korea and the United States as the two countries staged what they called a “dangerous war exercise.” “.

Some 240 aircraft took part in last week’s joint US-South Korean exercise on the peninsula, Vigilant Storm, along with thousands of US and South Korean troops.

North Korea fired a daily record 23 missiles on Wednesday, one of which landed closest to South Korean territorial waters since the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945, according to South Korea. Air raid alarms in parts of South Korea and Japan have prompted citizens to take shelter after North Korean missile launches.

Pyongyang’s missile launches on Thursday included an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a weapon designed to carry a nuclear warhead to North America.

Brown called Pyongyang’s recent aggressive behavior the “ups and downs” of North Korea’s missile activity, adding that its “real focus” was the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces.

Brown has completed two tours of the Korean Peninsula and served as the commander of Pacific Air Forces before assuming his role as Air Force Chief of Staff in August 2020.

After North Korea launched the ICBM on Thursday, the United States and South Korea extended Vigilant Storm, which was scheduled to end Friday, for an additional day.

David Maxwell, an Army veteran who was stationed in Japan and South Korea and an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VOA that the Allied response to North Korea’s recent aggression was ” better than it certainly has been in the last five years.”

“I think the Yoon and Biden administrations are recovering from decisions made in the last administration to reduce training, as well as the effects of COVID,” Maxwell said.

But US-Korean military actions did not prevent the South Korean press from questioning US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup last week on “the effectiveness American and South Korean deterrents, to which Austin replied that he believed North Korea was deterred from attacking South Korea and also from deploying a nuclear device.

According to Maxwell, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent missile launches are an effort to “drive a wedge into the ROK-US alliance” to create dissension among politicians.

“He (UN) is trying to weaken military preparedness. He appeals to these naive experts who think that if we just cancel the exercises, he will come to the negotiating table and act as a responsible member of the international community. Nothing could be more wrong,” Maxwell said.