Beijing must be feeling the pressure from the United States to stop its campaign of turning tiny reefs that it controls in the South China Sea into artificial islands capable of accommodating military aircraft and vessels. The Monday edition of the People's Daily online carried not one but two commentaries criticizing the U.S. for its accusations against China.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was concerned that China was using its "sheer size and muscle" to bully smaller neighbors, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which are embroiled in maritime disputes with Beijing. And Ashton Carter, on his first trip to Asia since becoming U.S. defense secretary, warned that militarization of territorial disputes in the South China Sea could lead to "dangerous incidents."

Their statements stem from the latest evidence of China engaging in wide-ranging reclamation of land in the South China Sea by scooping up sand from the seabed and pouring it, plus loads of cement, onto submerged reefs and turning them into artificial islands which are capable of hosting helipads, airstrips and harbors.