The flagship newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party has issued a harsh attack on U.S. policies in Asia, accusing it of seeking to turn the disputed South China Sea into a powder keg and warning it not to underestimate China's determination to defend its territorial claims.

The People's Daily on Wednesday cited recent combined exercises by two Navy aircraft carrier strike groups as a sign of U.S. hegemony and says Washington has made a mistake in seeking to intimidate China.

The article comes amid rising tensions over contested waters, islands and reefs and Chinese outrage over U.S. support for a case brought by the Philippines before a United Nations arbitration panel challenging Beijing's claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. A verdict in that case is expected soon.