China acknowledged that it had just begun searching on its territory for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, days after multinational experts agreed that satellite pings indicated the Boeing 777 could have taken a northern route into central Asia.
“China has started search and rescue operation in the Chinese territory of the northern corridor area for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, said Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang Tuesday,” Xinhua reported in a one-sentence story.
In a lengthier piece highlighted on the state press agency’s site, Beijing said it’s sending its largest rescue vessel, Haixun 01, to Singapore today to take on supplies before heading to search around Indonesia’s narrow Sunda Strait.
“At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Transportation ordered all Chinese vessels in the Gulf of Thailand to leave for searches in the waters southeast of the Bay of Bengal and near the Sunda Strait,” Xinhua said.
China also said it had assigned 21 satellites to look for the plane and declared definitively that no Chinese aboard the plane had links to terrorism.
The PRC has been notably subdued since the plane, which included 153 Chinese among the 239 passengers and crew, went missing on a redeye flight March 8.
Xinhua did issue an editorial today saying “any country that drags its feet at this moment is not showing due respect to the 239 lives aboard the missing plane.”
“It is known to all that inaccurate, or at least incomplete, information led the initial search in the South China Sea nowhere and thus that precious time was wasted,” the state-sanctioned commentary continued. “…But there is also no doubt that Malaysia bears unshirkable responsibility to set up an information-sharing platform. In the meantime, other parties possessing valuable data and information, including intelligence superpower the United States, also have a duty to offer the platform timely data and information.”
Ironically, it was China who delayed the search.
The Malaysian military noted early on that it had caught MH370 on radar doubling back over the peninsula to the west. China stepped in soon after with satellite photos it said showed wreckage in the South China Sea.
Search crews were diverted from the Strait of Malacca to the South China Sea by the find, and equally perplexed that China said it captured the images four days before the release of the photos. Nothing was found, and China then claimed that the images were released in error.
Experts said the images didn’t even look like plane debris, with a large piece measuring about 72 feet square.