Chinese defense equipment on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea is to maintain the freedom of navigation in the region, the country’s Premier Li Keqiang said Friday. The comments came during his five-day visit to Australia, where Li arrived Wednesday night.

Beijing had claimed almost all of the South China Sea and the other claimants of the international waters — Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — have accused the country of militarizing the contested region. The U.S. has also warned China against its growing military aggression in the area. However, the country has defended its actions saying it is only adding to the region’s defense.

During a press conference in Canberra, Li maintained the stance and said the military installations on the artificial islands are mainly for civilian use.

"Even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation," Li said. "Because without such freedom or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be among the first to bear the brunt of it."

The premier also said his country is not militarizing the South China Sea, from where about $5 trillion worth of trade passes every year.

"With respect to the so-called militarization, China never has any intention to engage in militarization in the South China Sea," the 62-year-old said.

Furthermore, the aircraft and ships that sail through the waters belong to China’s trading partners with Beijing, "so one can easily imagine how many Chinese interests are at stake here," Li added.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said all the involved parties should resolve conflict peacefully.

"We encourage all parties to refrain from taking any actions which would add to tensions, including actions of militarization of disputed features," Turnbull said.

Apart from having freedom of trade and navigation interests, Canberra also has economic interests, in the disputed region. Since 1980, it has been conducting air surveillance operations in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean called Operation Gateway.