Australia has urged China and south-east Asian countries squabbling over territory in the South China Sea to sign a code of conduct immediately.
The defence minister, Kevin Andrews, issued a veiled swipe at China during a speech to an Asia Pacific security summit in Singapore on Sunday.
“We are particularly concerned at the prospect of militarisation of artificial structures,” Andrews told the summit, a reference to reports China had moved heavy weapons onto contested man-made islands a month ago.
China maintains it has sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, which is a major global shipping route and reportedly has oil and gas reserves.
It has ramped up construction of artificial islands in recent months, in a move some experts believe is aimed at bolstering its territorial claims.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei also claim parts of the sea.
Andrews said Australia was opposed to “coercive or unilateral actions” and hit out at “any large scale land reclamation activity by claimants”.