Scott Morrison has failed to secure a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, underlining white-hot anger over the scrapped submarine saga.
Australia's decision to torpedo a $90 billion deal with French company Naval Group has sunk diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Instead of conventional diesel-powered boats, Australia wants at least eight submarines with nuclear propulsion under the AUKUS security pact.
But the new agreement with the United States and United Kingdom has infuriated the French.
The prime minister confirmed there was no discussion scheduled with Mr Macron to soothe tensions.
"The opportunity for that call is not yet. But we'll be patient," Mr Morrison told reporters in Washington DC on Thursday, Australian time.
He said the expectation of France's disappointment was weighed against Australia's national security interests.
"I will always choose Australia's national security interests."
Jean-Pierre Thebault, France's ambassador to Australia, was recalled to Paris after the submarine switch.
France will send its recalled ambassador back to Washington after Mr Macron spoke with US President Joe Biden.
But Mr Morrison's difficulty in getting the French leader on the phone indicates the relationship could take some time to be repaired.
"Australia decided not to proceed with a very significant defence contract," the prime minister said.
"Understandably, we know that France is disappointed about that.
"Those issues will take further time to work through than the ones that were being dealt with between the United States and France.
"I look forward to engaging again with president Macron, I know there will be some time before that occurs, but we will patiently pursue those opportunities because we want to work together."
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government had failed to explain why France wasn't given advance warning of the decision.
Mr Albanese said ministers defended the Naval Group contract before pointing to major problems after the AUKUS announcement.
"You need to treat allies with respect," he told 5AA radio.
"There's been a failure of diplomacy here and prime minister Morrison needs to speak to president Macron."
The opposition leader said France was an important player in the Indo-Pacific and a key part of Australia's relationship with the European Union.
Mr Morrison said the Macron-Biden call helped reinforce the important role France and Europe played in the Indo-Pacific.
"Our door is wide open. Our invitation is there. We understand the hurt and the disappointment," he said.
The prime minister also met with influential Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss lawmakers' support for sharing nuclear submarine technology under AUKUS.
"It's very clear that Congress and the Senate will be backing this in," Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison attended Mr Biden's COVID summit where Australia pledged an additional 20 million vaccine doses for Indo-Pacific countries and an intention to procure the same amount in the future.
He was also due to meet one-on-one with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the first face-to-face Quad talks with the American and Japanese leaders later in the week.
Australian Associated Press
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