China "really needs" its defences in the South China Sea in the face of a militarisation process being pushed by the United States, and can deploy whatever equipment it wants on its own soil, China's Defence Ministry says.
China and the US have sparred repeatedly over the past week following reports China is deploying advanced missiles, fighters and radar equipment on islands in the South China Sea, especially on Woody Island in the Paracels.
The US has accused China of militarising the disputed waters. Beijing, for its part, has been angered by "freedom of navigation" air and sea patrols the US has conducted near islands China claims in the South China Sea.
Those have included one by two B-52 strategic bombers in November and by a US navy destroyer that sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels last month.
"The United States is the real promoter of the militarisation of the South China Sea," defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a regular monthly news briefing on Thursday.
"China's construction of military facilities on the islands and reefs of the South China Sea is really needed."
The Paracel Islands are China's "inherent territory", he added.
"It is China's legitimate right to deploy defence facilities within our own territory, no matter in the past or at present, no matter temporarily or permanently, no matter what equipment it is," Wu said.
People are being "dazzled" by the endless hyping up by US media of equipment China is deploying in the South China Sea, he added.
"One minute it's air defence missiles, then radars, then various types of aircraft - who knows what tomorrow will bring in terms of new equipment being hyped up."
Even the US has said some of this equipment had been placed there in the past, Wu said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion in global trade passes every year.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.
This week, coinciding with a visit to Washington DC by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Navy's Pacific Command, said the US would step up freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea and that China was trying to militarily dominate East Asia.
Wu said the US was employing double standards, asking why US patrols in the South China Sea should not also be considered militarisation.