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Search for Malaysian flight moves to new stage, China vows continued efforts

Editor: Bai Yang 丨Xinhua

05-05-2014 22:48 BJT

Full coverage: Malaysia Airlines Plane Bound for Beijing Goes Missing

CANBERRA, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Australia, Malaysia and China have agreed to intensify the underwater search for the missing Malaysian Airline flight MH370 and listed a few steps to be taken in the near future at a trilateral ministerial meeting held in Canberra on Monday.

Ministers stressed that continuity and momentum need to be maintained in the transition period. As a result, dedicated vessels from Australia, Malaysia and China will continue maritime operations while the Bluefin-21 submersible will continue to be deployed and an Australian aircraft will be on standby.

"Following the extensive surface search, ministers confirmed that the search will be a continuous effort with the operation entering a new phase that will now be focused on intensifying the search of the ocean floor over a larger area," the communique released after the meeting says.

Head of the Chinese delegation, Transport Minister Yang Chuantang, vowed at a post-meeting press conference that the search in the next phase will "not be interrupted, not be suspended, not be given up and not be slacked."

"We know clearly that the area of the follow-up search is even broader with more difficulties and tougher tasks. The Chinese government will as always try its utmost and make every possible effort to participate in the search," he said.

In the new phase of search, which is characterized by focused underwater search, governments will have to first conduct an oceanographic mapping of the sea floor, which is up till now little known to the human being.

"These activities will include analysis of all available data to refine the best search area; acquisition of bathymetric analysis capability to survey the search area; and acquisition of sub-surface search assets to scan the entire agreed search area," the communique says.

The document says that Australia and Malaysia are working on a more comprehensive agreement to clearly define the responsibilities of both sides, especially the financial responsibilities for any contracting of commercial search and recovery capabilities.

Meanwhile, Yang promised that no matter in the past, for the time being or in the future, China will proactively participate in the search and make due contribution to the gigantic task in terms of expertise, assets and finance.

Australia and China will both send experts to participate in the International Investigation Team established by Malaysia to evaluate, investigate and determine the actual cause of the incident.

Yang said China supports the involvement of private companies with advantages in technologies, equipment and capabilities to conduct the normalized search in the new phase.

The Chinese government also encourages Chinese companies or organizations with relevant capabilities to be involved in the sub- surface search.

China will continue to send experts to participate in the identification and verification of the search plan and the investigation of the mystery of MH370, Yang said.

He said China vows to work closely with Malaysia and Australia based on the communique reached at the ministerial meeting on Monday.

"So long as the three nations closely collaborate with each other, materialize the joint communique seriously, could we, with our pragmatic work, respond to the expectations of the international community, provide closure to the relatives of people onboard, and discharge our duties and responsibilities," he said.

The ministers announced that the Joint Agency Coordination Center (JACC) will be relocated from Perth to Canberra to ensure ongoing close communication with high-level representatives of Malaysia and China. However, the base of operations will remain in Perth.

In a latest update of the ongoing search operation, JACC said the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield will return to Fleet Base West on Monday to replenish its supplies and conduct routine maintenance and software modifications to the submarine vehicle Bluefin-21.

Although the search has yet to find any sign of possible debris from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during operations, the data collected during the 35 days at sea will assist in narrowing the search area for the final resting place of the aircraft, JACC said.

Once the port visit completed, Ocean Shield will return immediately to the search area where the undersea search will continue for the plane, which vanished mysteriously on March 8 with 239 aboard, according to the JACC.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy will continue supporting the search effort with the Bluefin-21 side scan sonar for about four more weeks at the request of the Australian government.

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