Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew five hours to the Pilbara - ''twice as long as our summit meeting'', Mr Abe joked - chased all the way by headlines from China.
State-owned newsagency Xinhua excoriated Mr Abbott's ''appalling'' speech to Parliament, in which he honoured the courage of Japanese submariners during World War II.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: Reuters
Mr Abbott had said that Australia ''admired the skill and the sense of honour that they brought to their task, although we disagreed with what they did''.
Referring to Mr Abbott, Xinhau wrote: ''He probably wasn't aware that the Japanese troops possessed other 'skills' to loot, to rape, to torture and to kill.''
China suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese before and during the war, and the memory still tears at the national psyche.
Responding to criticism in Chinese state-controlled news agencies, Mr Abbott said on Thursday that international friendships were not a "zero sum game".
''It's possible to strengthen a range of friendships simultaneously,'' he told reporters in Perth.
''We want better friendship with Japan, and I think pretty obviously we are getting that. But we also want better friendship with China.
''We are working on a free trade deal with China. I'm still reasonably optimistic we will succeed there. We want better friendship with everyone.
''The point that I keep making is that you don't win new friends by losing old ones and countries, like people, are capable of having more friends at the same time.''
While China was criticising Mr Abbott, Mr Abe's speech to Parliament also found a critic - former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
Mr Fraser said Mr Abe was the ''second head of government who's made a speech that should only have been made on his own soil. The first was President Obama.''
Mr Fraser was referring to Barack Obama's 2011 speech - also to Parliament - outlining a United States ''pivot'' towards greater involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, and the rotation of US troops through Darwin. That speech drew thunderous criticism from Beijing.
Mr Fraser said Australia would be defeated if it sided with the US in a war against China. ''If America couldn't beat Vietnam, do you think they can beat China? Not one hope in a thousand.''