China's Defense Ministry has accused the U.S. and Philippines of militarizing the region with stepped-up military cooperation and says China will steadfastly defend its sovereignty and maritime rights in the area.

The statement came shortly after the announcement Thursday that the U.S. would send troops and planes to the Philippines for more frequent rotations and will increase joint sea and air patrols with Philippine forces in the South China Sea.

The statement said those plans were "non-beneficial" to peace and stability in the South China Sea and smacked of a "Cold War mentality."

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its territory and is building manmade islands there topped with airstrips and other infrastructure. The Philippines, Vietnam and others also claim territory controlled or claimed by China.