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.