China engaged in 'act of aggression': PM

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Anthony Albanese has labelled an incident between a Chinese fighter jet and an Australian airforce surveillance aircraft as an act of aggression.

The prime minister said the Australian aircraft was observing longstanding and observed international practices.

"We regard the actions of China in this area as being an act of aggression and a dangerous act against the Australian airforce which was conducting aerial surveillance in accordance with international norms," he told reporters while in Indonesia.

Defence Minister Richard Marles revealed on Sunday a Chinese J-16 aircraft flew dangerously close to a RAAF P-8A Poseidon conducting routine surveillance in international airspace on May 26.

While flying close, the J-16 released flares, accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the Australian aircraft at very close distance.

The Chinese aircraft then released a bundle of chaff which contained small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.

The Poseidon then ended its mission and returned to base.

The Australian government has raised concerns with Beijing saying it threatened the safety of the crew.

China has not responded to Australia's complaint, Mr Albanese said on Monday evening.

"We have made representations through appropriate channels and they were strong representations," he said.

"We have also made the public comments, so there has not been just quiet diplomacy in this case, the (remarks) have been strong."

Mr Marles says Australia will continue to conduct surveillance and freedom of navigation missions in the area as the HMAS Parramatta heads towards the South China Sea.

But Mr Marles remained coy on whether the incident would require bigger deployments on patrol operations through the sea.

"All of the work that our servicemen and women do carries danger with it but we will continue to engage in our activities in the South China Sea because it's a body of water that matters to us," he told the ABC.

Beijing has questioned a minister's account of the incident but the Australian government is standing by the details.

The Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times said the Australian aircraft "likely made provocative moves".

"It is possible that the Australian P-8 was about to enter or even did trespass on Chinese airspace, or it is also possible that the aircraft disrupted PLA maritime exercises in a dangerous manner," the newspaper quoted analysts as saying.

"If the Chinese aircraft did use flares and chaff, it is possible that the Australian P-8 used its jamming pod to lase the Chinese aircraft, triggering the latter's self-defence system."

An angry editorial in the Global Times on Monday accused Australia of "deliberately" concealing key details of the incident.

Mr Albanese said it was important to maintain strategic competition in the region as China becomes more assertive.

"We need to make sure that it's managed in a way that doesn't have catastrophic consequences for the region," he said.

"We want peace and security in the region."

Mr Albanese said strengthening the relationship with Indonesia and ASEAN through actions such as increased cooperation and assistance in defence and maritime security will aid regional stability.

Mr Marles will not meet with his Chinese counterpart when he travels to the Shangri-La defence summit in Singapore at the end of the week.

He is due to meet with US Defence Minister Lloyd Austin, who is addressing the conference about the country's Indo-Pacific defence policy, while China's Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe will speak about Beijing's vision for the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Marles said a rules-based order through the Indo-Pacific and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea was in Australia's vital interests.

"It's really important that we are asserting our rights in the South China Sea, because it goes to our national interest," he told Sky News.

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