Chinese attack on navy ship divers 'dangerous': PM

Anthony Albanese has criticised China over its "dangerous" and "unprofessional" actions which led to Australian navy divers being injured.

A Chinese warship injured Australian military personnel from the HMAS Toowoomba last Tuesday with sonar pulses.

The Australians were operating in international waters off the coast of Japan in support of a United Nations mission when the incident happened.

The divers suffered minor injuries to their ears.

HMAS Toowoomba.
HMAS Toowoomba was in international waters off Japan when the "interaction" took place.

The incident happened before the prime minister left on Wednesday for San Francisco, but was not revealed until Saturday when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC economic leaders' summit.

Mr Albanese said he was "very concerned" about the incident.

"This was dangerous, it was unsafe and unprofessional from the Chinese forces," he told Sky News on Monday.

"That's why we've made it very clear to the Chinese of our strong objections to this occurrence."

Asked if he raised the incident with the Chinese leader, Mr Albanese said he does not talk about private meetings "on the sidelines" with world leaders.

"But I can assure you that we raised these issues in the appropriate way and very clearly, unequivocally," Mr Albanese said.

"There's no misunderstanding as to Australia's view on this."

Australia's ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd backed Mr Albanese, saying the nature of any conversation between the prime minister and world leaders was confidential.

"We do not comment on the detail, (it's) long-standing practice of governments -  Liberal, Labor and Callithumpian," he told ABC radio on Monday.

But Mr Rudd also said the ship incident would be a test of efforts to stabilise the Australia-China relationship, in the wake of Mr Albanese's visit to Beijing in early November.

Mr Albanese inspects a guard of honour in Beijing.
Ahead of APEC, Mr Albanese was the first Australian prime minister to visit China in six years.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said the attack "put at risk Australians who put on a uniform every day to fight for our country", adding those views had been made known to China.

Ms O'Neil said the government would not play politics with the countries' complex relationship.

"This is one of the largest countries in the world, we are going to have to find a way to coexist in our region over the coming decades," she said.

The opposition and crossbenchers have been calling for the prime minister to explicitly say whether he raised the incident with the Chinese president.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said the issue should be raised at the leader level.

"You can't sit there and pretend you're going to be nice on trade while this is going on with your own navy people that could have brought more harm to them," she told Sky News on Monday.

"This is just ridiculous. What happened to the friendship and the trust that we're building and all the rest?"

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said if the prime minister knew about the incident and deliberately withheld the information, it was "outrageous and unacceptable".

He reiterated Mr Albanese needed to say whether he raised the incident directly with the president.

The two nations are working to stabilise their diplomatic relationship following years of tension that developed during the term of the last coalition government.