ASEAN leaders gather for a group photo with U.S. President Barack Obama (5th L) after a US-ASEAN meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

China broke its silence and defended its reclamation of islands in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese government claims most of the West Philippine Sea, near the Spratly islands where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

Despite request from U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders to stop their land reclamation, the BBC reports that China will continue to “expand and upgrade” their facilities in their artificial islands which include airstrips of unknown purpose.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said that China’s construction of facility in the islands is for “public service” to protect the island and the reefs and for the individuals stationed in the islands for the benefit of the countries surrounding the sea.

“Building and maintaining necessary military facilities, this is what is required for China’s national defense and for the protection of those islands and reefs,” Bloomberg quoted Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin during a meeting on Sunday in Malaysia where leaders from different country attends the A.S.E.A.N. summit.

But, he also said “One should never link such military facilities with efforts to militarize the islands and reefs and militarize the South China Sea.”

The United States recently practiced freedom of navigation in the disputed sea. The destroyer USS Lassen sailed within the 12 nautical miles of the disputed Subi Reef last month, followed by two Air Force B-52 bombers that recently flew near one of China’s artificial island in the Spratlys.