China’s defence ministry on Thursday accused the US of “militarizing” the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills there, ramping up the rhetoric ahead of a key regional security meeting in Malaysia next week.
China has repeatedly urged Washington not to take sides in the escalating maritime dispute over the area, where the Asian giant last year stepped up its creation of artificial islands, alarming neighbours and provoking US criticism.
US has demanded China halt land reclamation and militarization of the disputed area and pursue a peaceful resolution as per the international law. China has been angered by US navy and air force forays through waters it claims as its own, especially this month, when US navy admiral Scott Swift said he joined a routine surveillance flight.
The US has also stepped up military contacts with regional allies such as the Philippines.