China “really needs” its defenses in the South China Sea in the face of a militarization process being pushed by the United States, and can deploy whatever equipment it wants on its own soil, China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

China and the United States 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 United States has accused China of militarizing the disputed waters. Beijing, for its part, has been angered by “freedom of navigation” air and sea patrols the United States 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 U.S. 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 militarization of the South China Sea,” defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a regular monthly news briefing.

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