Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Beijing rules out sabotage by MH370’s Chinese passengers, sends ships to Indian Ocean

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 11:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 7:41pm

No individuals or groups had raised any political demands over the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, said China's ambassador to Malaysia on Tuesday. 

Ambassador Huang Huikang also said that China had ruled out the possibility of terrorist or sabotage activity by any of its 153 nationals on board the Boeing 777-200ER, which cut off communication with controllers and fell off civilian radar screens in the early hours of March 8 while en route from Kualua Lumpur to Beijing. 

China had "conducted meticulous investigation into all the (Chinese) passengers, and did not find any evidence of sabotage activity," Huang told a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning.

As the search enters its 10th day, China is focusing on eliminating one of the possible "corridors" where the missing plane might have flown to and landed, Huang said. 

"The key now is to narrow the search area and eliminate one of the two corridors," Huang said, adding that China had started searching the areas where the northern corridor falls within Chinese territory. 

Malaysian authorities said on Sunday that the plane's last satellite contact - at 8.11am on March 8 - revealed it flew more than seven hours after dropping off civilian radar. Two flight corridors are now the focus of the search - one from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, China said it was dispatching its military and civilian ships taking part in the maritime search to two suspected locations in the Indian Ocean as of 8am on Tuesday morning.

“There are major changes in our search strategy and plans due to the change of situations. The forces will head in two opposite directions, one northward and the other southward, starting today," a press official at the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre in Beijing told the Post on Tuesday morning. 

But she declined to reveal further details, saying "the intelligence is constantly changing, so is the arrangement."

Watch: Chinese MH370 relatives threaten 'hunger strike'

A story in the PLA Daily, official newspaper of the Chinese military, said the Chinese military and civilian ships searching the Bay of Thailand in the past week had ended a standby and were heading to Singapore for regrouping and preparation before they sail to the two new search locations in the Indian Ocean. 

China Communication News said on Tuesday that four Chinese ships and three helicopters from the fleet were charged with searching a 120,000-square-kilometre area in the Bay of Bengal, west of the Andaman Islands, and another five ships and three helicopters would focus on a 180,000-square-kilometre, narrow stretch of waters southwest of Indonesia's Sumatra and Java islands. 

Huang trod carefully while commenting on the investigation and search efforts led by Malaysia so far. He repeated China's frustration with the Malaysian authorities' insufficient response and information releases over the missing flight, but also praised them for their efforts.

"The Malaysian government has insufficient capabilities, technologies and experience in responding to the MH370 incident, but they did their best," Huang said at the press briefing.

"Our main problem now is that there is a chaos of information. All sorts of speculation, even rumours, are flying around, making it impossible for one to think," Huang said.

The chaos arises partly from the unprecedented mysteries surrounding the missing flight, and partly from the inexperience on the part of Malaysian authorities, he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China has deployed 21 satellites to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner with 239 people on board.

China has begun searching for the missing jet in those parts of its own territory covered by a northern corridor that the aircraft could have flown through, state media said earlier in the day.

No trace of the plane has been found more than a week after it vanished, but investigators believe it was diverted by someone with deep knowledge of the plane and commercial navigation.

Watch: Last words from missing Malaysian jet spoken by co-pilot