BEIJING : Blocking China from islands it has built in contested waters would lead to "devastating confrontation", Chinese state media have warned.

The angry response came after secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson said the US should deny Beijing access to new islands in the South China Sea .

Two state-run papers carry editorials strongly criticising his comments.

The hawkish Global Times tabloid warned that any such action would lead to "a large-scale war".

Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs in waters also claimed by other nations. Images published late last year show military defences on some islands, a think-tank says.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson likened China's island-building to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

"We're going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."

China's official response, from foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, was muted. China had the right to conduct "normal activities" in its own territory, he said.

Asked specifically about the remark on blocking access, he said he would not respond to hypothetical questions.

But editorials in the China Daily and the Global Times were more direct in their comments. The China Daily suggested Mr Tillerson's remarks showed ignorance of Sino-US relations and diplomacy in general.

"Such remarks are not worth taking seriously because they are a mish-mash of naivety, shortsightedness, worn-out prejudices and unrealistic political fantasies," it said.