China has cancelled a multinational naval parade to mark the 65th anniversary of the PLA Navy later this month because of the continuing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
PLA Navy spokesman Liang Yang announced the cancellation yesterday, according to a statement by the navy. The statement said the long and so-far futile search in the Indian Ocean for the missing Boeing 777 had dealt a harsh blow to the families of the more than 150 Chinese passengers who were aboard.
"Under such a special situation and atmosphere, China decided to cancel the multinational naval parade," Liang was quoted as saying. He added that an international symposium would go ahead as planned.
The parade, which was to have been held at the naval base in Qingdao , Shandong , on April 23, would have been China's second-largest fleet review, following its first five years ago. More than 20 nations were invited and many had sent vessels to take part.
Even before yesterday's announcement, the parade had proved controversial. The Japanese navy was not invited - much to Tokyo's and Washington's annoyance. The US subsequently decided not to join the parade.
Military experts said the absence of large-tonnage and advanced warships may have been another reason for the cancellation.
"Many of the navy's largest and most advanced warships are still taking part in the search in the Indian Ocean," Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said.
Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the US withdrawal might also have led China to call off the event. "Beijing doesn't want to offend Washington, and the missing Malaysia Airlines flight provided them with an excuse to cancel," he said.
China has contributed nine warships and six aircraft to the search mission, including two of the navy's four biggest amphibious landing ships, the 20,000-tonne Jinggangshan and Kunlunshan. It also sent its fastest and most advanced missile destroyer, Haikou, and the supply ship Qiandaohu.
The Malaysia Airlines plane was carrying 227 passengers, 154 of them Chinese, and 12 crew when it vanished on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane is believed to have drastically changed course during its journey and probably ran out of fuel over the Indian Ocean, though the reason remains a mystery.
Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that his government would release all data recovered from the Boeing's black box if it were recovered.
"It's about finding the truth," he told reporters.
Malaysia's government has come under fire for a seemingly chaotic initial response, while the scarcity of official information on MH370 has prompted questions over its transparency.
Agence France Presse