Beijing: China will "accelerate militarising its newly built islands", warned a state-run daily after a US bomber flew close to it in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon said that an American B-52 bomber "unintentionally" flew over the South China Sea within two nautical miles of an artificial island built by China. Chinese authorities described the move as "provocation".
An editorial "US actions prompt islands militarization" in the Global Times said on Monday that the US military has adopted a mild tone this time, but "its action is aggressive".
"The moves of the US will undoubtedly propel China to accelerate militarising its newly built islands and make them capable of coping with direct military threat from the US.
"As the Chinese mainland is far from this area and China only has one aircraft carrier, it would be too late for China to send fighter jets from the mainland when US jets intrude into the airspace of the islands. The only choice is to deploy the fighter jets on these islands," the daily said.
"China has stressed that these islands serve a peaceful purpose, but the premise of such assertion is that no external military force threatens their security. The US military is undermining this premise, and China should carry out corresponding security deployment."
It observed that nowadays US warplanes and bombers fly over nearby waters and airspace at will.
"If China does not take due measures, it can be implied that it tacitly approves such hostile actions. This in turn will jeopardise the country's South China Sea strategy. China, therefore, has no other options, but to build up its military capability on those islands. In that case, next time when the US warplanes come over again, there will be Chinese military planes taking off and safeguarding our sovereignty."
The daily went on to say that there is worry that militarisation of the islands will bring more pressure on China from the international community and some Southeast Asian countries will especially be unhappy about it.
"But it is the US military provocations that are propelling China to do so. China's countermeasures will be morally correct. They may further complicate the situation in the South China Sea, but will not tarnish China's international image."