Search for Missing Malaysia Plane Expands

Malaysia says the search for a missing passenger jet is under way along both the northern and southern corridors of where it is believed to have been deliberately diverted.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says 26 countries are involved in the search on land and in the water. The search spans tens of millions of square kilometers.

"Today I can confirm that the search-and-rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun. Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have already initiated search-and-rescue operations. The [Malaysian] Royal Air Force and the Royal National Navy have deployed assets to the southern corridor."

China is pressing Malaysian authorities to better coordinate search efforts for missing flight MH370 and to release information more quickly. As the search effort pushed into its 10th day, Malaysia asked Australia to lead the search for the missing flight in the Indian Ocean.

With the search operation expanding to include some 26 countries and efforts shifting in large arcs to the north and south of Malaysia's west coast, China is again raising concerns over a lack of information about the investigation.

At a regular news briefing on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry once again urged Malaysia to provide more information about where to direct search efforts.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the search operation faces even more difficulties with the scope expanding. Hong said China hopes Malaysia will better coordinate all of the search efforts.

The majority of the 239 people on board the Boeing 777 jet were Chinese nationals. On Monday, the state-run China Daily, China's most prominent overseas English publication argued that Malaysia's piecemeal and contradictory information has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious.

An editorial in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post asked: "Is Malaysia Fit to Lead the Widening Search for Missing Flight MH370?" In it, the paper's editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei suggested that it was time for Beijing to step up and lead the operation.

Wang said Beijing should use its influence to press nations to work more closely to solve the mystery.

However, when asked about that option at a news conference Monday, China's Foreign Ministry made it clear that Malaysia is still in charge.

Malaysian authorities said the vanished passenger jet could be in two possible corridors based on satellite tracking data received nearly eight hours after the plane took off. One corridor stretches north, up across some 11 countries including China all the way to Kazakhstan in Central Asia. The other sweeps south, toward Indonesia and the deep waters of the southern Indian Ocean.

Authorities in Pakistan and India said radar along their borders did not pick up the plane. Given that, some experts say that if the plane did go north to Central Asia, it could have traveled over Burma and the Himalayan plateau and perhaps through Chinese airspace.

It was unclear what Chinese authorities have found so far in their review of their radar information.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Malaysia has requested that China share such information and we have noticed that other countries have already responded. Hong said that whatever will help in the search, China will actively cooperate.

In Beijing, families voiced their outrage with the pace of the search and apparent missteps by Malaysian authorities.

One man surnamed Wen said that if Malaysia had also referred to satellite data much earlier on, then they wouldn't have wasted time searching the east side of the Malaysian peninsula. Wen says Malaysia has made a big mess. "Who would take flights run by Malaysia?" he asked. "Who would dare to do business there?" he added.

Like other families and many online in China, Wen believes Malaysia is withholding information.

As the search expands, analysts say the endeavor will greatly depend on the ability of not only Malaysia to share information but all of the countries to the north and south of where the plane is believed to have traveled.

VOA News / Mar. 18, 2014 08:14 KST