KUALA LUMPUR - The Royal Malaysian Air Force did not intercept Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 after it was detected by military radar as it assumed air traffic control had asked it to turn back.
"The plane was detected by our military radar but we assumed the turn-back done by MH370 was due to instructions from the air traffic control tower," said deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri during his winding-up address for the Ministry Wednesday.
Abdul Rahim also stressed the plane was identified as a non-hostile aircraft.
He said this in reply to Imran Abdul Hamid (PKR-Lumut).
Abdul Rahim, however, said this was not conclusive pending further investigations into the missing jetliner.
Imran had asked why there was no positive identification on the turn-back made by MH370, which caused the initial search and rescue operations to be held at the South China and the Andaman Sea.
"I still believe that MH370 plunged into the South China Sea," said Imran.
Abdul Rahim said the incident was unprecedented, and nothing was conclusive until debris was found.
"When we issued our statements on the turn-back, it was based on the data retrieved from the radar located in Kelantan, Kedah and Penang.
"So when RMAF identified the turn-back, it informed the related task force," he added.
MH370 disappeared off the Malaysian East Coast at about 1.30am on March 8 and was last detected on military radar at 2.40am the same day.
The Malaysian Airlines flight turned back and flew across Peninsular Malaysia before disappearing over the Straits of Malacca.
However, on Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the plane, carrying 239 passengers on board, had "ended its flight" in the southern Indian Ocean, based on analysis of satellite data, Inmarsat and Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
To date, no wreckage or debris has been found, and a search mission is ongoing.