BEIJING – China’s Defense Ministry on Thursday accused the United States of “militarizing” the West Philippine Sea (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 U.S. criticism.
Washington has demanded China halt land reclamation and militarisation of the disputed area and pursue a peaceful resolution according to international law.
China has been angered by U.S. navy and air force forays through waters it claims as its own, especially this month, when U.S. Navy Admiral Scott Swift said he joined a routine surveillance flight.
The United States has also stepped up military contacts, including drills, with regional allies such as the Philippines, which also has claims in the South China Sea.
The United States was hyping up the “China threat” and attempting to sow discord between China and other claimant countries, Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a monthly news briefing.