A Chinese fighter jet dangerously intercepted an Australian maritime surveillance plane over the South China Sea, endangering the aircraft and its crew, according to the Australian Defense Department.

The department said Sunday the Chinese J-16 aircraft intercepted an Australian P-8 Poseidon on May 26 while it was conducting routine maritime surveillance in international airspace over the highly disputed body of water.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Australian government has raised concerns about the incident with the Chinese government.

Photo taken on May 11, 2022, shows an Australian P-8A surveillance plane in the suburbs of Adelaide, southern Australia. (Photo courtesy of the Australian Defense Department)(Kyodo)

"The Department of Defense has for many 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. We are concerned about this incident," Albanese said.

Defense Minister Richard Marles told reporters the Chinese aircraft flew "very close to the side" of the Australian plane, releasing flares before accelerating and cutting across the nose of the aircraft.

According to Marles, the Chinese jet then settled in front of the Australian P-8 at a very close distance and released a bundle of chaff -- a radar countermeasure containing small pieces of aluminum, some of which were ingested by the plane's engine.

"Quite obviously, this is very dangerous," he said.

The department said the intercept resulted in a "dangerous manoeuver which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew."

The interception follows an earlier incident in February, where Australia accused a Chinese navy vessel of directing a laser at an Australian maritime surveillance aircraft.

Relations between China and Australia have become strained in recent years after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and amid growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.