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China Says Its Aircraft Not Conducting Overland Searches For Missing Plane

posted 12 Mar 2014, 05:29 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Mar 2014, 05:30 ]

China dismisses reports that its efforts to find the missing plane would be broadened to include land areas, and obliquely thanks Japan for offering to help.

BEIJING, CHINA (MARCH 12, 2014) (REUTERS) -  China's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (March 12) that its aircraft are not conducting searches over land for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner but that it was expanding searches at sea.

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"From what I understand, the report you mentioned that China has sent aircraft to search over land is not correct. As far as we know, China's aircraft are participating in search efforts over the sea," the ministry's spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

Earlier in the day, the chief of China's civil aviation authority said that searches would be broadened to include land areas.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation has so far found no trace of flight MH370 days after it disappeared carrying 239 passengers and crew.

Adding to the frustration and uncertainty, Malaysia's military has said the plane could have turned around from its planned flight path, but there were conflicting statements and reports about how far and in which direction it could have flown after communication was lost.

"There's lots of news at the moment, lots of confusion. At present it's very difficult for us to verify what is correct. But as I said before, we will not give up as long as there is a gleam of hope," Qin said.

Qin also extended a rare expression of goodwill towards Japan, offering thanks - albeit indirectly - for an offer of help to look for the aircraft.

"I believe that in the face of such an incident, the international community, whether MalaysiaChinaor neighbouring countries, have a shared concern. If other countries can, and are willing to, send ships to participate in search work, we welcome it and express our thanks," Qin said, when asked about Japan's contribution.

China's ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.

Japan announced officially on Wednesday that it would send four military planes, including P3C surveillance aircraft, to help in the search.

Qin urged Malaysia to take the lead in the massive multinational search and rescue efforts.

"There are many countries participating in the search and rescue efforts in the relavant sea area. This requires us to enhance communication, coordination, and integration. This task should naturally be undertaken by the Malaysian side. So China is willing to enhance communication withMalaysia, and is also willing to enhance coordination and cooperation with ships from other countries," Qin said.

Flight MH370 dropped out of sight an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on Saturday (March 8), under clear night skies and with no indication of any mechanical problems.

The massive search operation involving 42 ships and 39 aircraft from several countries is spread out over the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, which lie between Malaysia and Vietnam, and in the Strait of Malacca west of Malaysia extending into the Andaman Sea.