China's Defense Ministry is accusing the U.S. of militarizing the South China Sea amid increasingly bold moves by Beijing to assert its claim to virtually the entire region.

The remarks from spokesman Yang Yujun at a monthly news conference were prompted by comments last week from the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, criticizing Chinese island building projects in the disputed sea.

Harris warned such work could undermine international norms that have long supported the global economy and political order.

Yang called them a distortion of the facts. He said U.S. close-in reconnaissance, strengthened alliances and frequent military exercises are raising tensions and creating risks of incidents in the air and at sea.

He asked whether the U.S. sought to sow chaos in the region.