Defence Minister Richard Marles says the interception of one of Australia’s maritime surveillance aircraft by a Chinese fighter plane over the South China Sea last month was a “very dangerous” situation.

In a statement, the Department of Defence said on May 26 an RAAF P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter during routine maritime surveillance activity in international airspace in the South China Sea region.

“The intercept resulted in a dangerous manoeuvre which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew,” it said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government has expressed its concerns with the Chinese government through appropriate channels.

“I won’t be making further comment on it, other than to say that in the Australian government’s view, in the Defence Department’s view, this was not safe, what occurred,” he told reporters in Perth on Sunday before embarking on an official trip to Indonesia.

Mr Marles said the Chinese J-16 aircraft flew very close to the side of the Australian plane, where it released flares.

“The J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff, which contains small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8aircraft. Quite obviously, this is very dangerous.”

The department said Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace.