National interests hamper complex Malaysia jet search

National interests hamper complex Malaysia jet search

KUALA LUMPUR - National self-interest and confusion about operational control looked Wednesday to be unsettling the already daunting 26-nation search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet, with boats and planes sitting idle pending clear orders.

Malaysia has underlined the importance of outside help in scouring two land and sea corridors equivalent in size to the entire land mass of Australia.

But Indonesia acknowledged Wednesday it had only just provided clearance for surveillance aircraft from Australia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia to overfly its territory, while saying its own vessels await instructions from Kuala Lumpur.

"It is not that Indonesia does not want to issue permits, but we have a mechanism to follow that we have to respect," military spokesman Iskandar Sitompul said, insisting Jakarta was not trying to "slow down" the process.

"It must go through the foreign ministry first before being submitted to the armed forces," he told AFP.

MH370 went missing early on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew, spawning a massive international search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The hunt has turned up no trace of wreckage as the clock ticks down on the 30 days that the aircraft's black box transmits a signal.

New Thai evidence

The Thai air force revealed Wednesday that its military radar had picked up what appeared to be Flight MH370 on March 8, just minutes after investigators believe it was deliberately diverted from its intended flight path by someone on board.

Although the aircraft ID could not be 100 per cent verified, the Thai data represents crucial corroborative evidence for the conclusions drawn from Malaysian radar tracking of MH370.

But it went unreported by the Thai military for nine days after the plane disappeared and only emerged following a check of radar logs on Monday.

According to Air Marshal Monthon Suchookornat, the same plane was picked up again later swinging north and disappearing over the Andaman Sea.

Nothing was done before because the aircraft was not in Thai airspace "and it was not a threat to Thailand," Monthon said.

Malaysia has sought help from more than two dozen countries in the form of radar and satellite analysis, as well as surveillance vessels and aircraft.

Acknowledging the "diplomatic, technical and logistical challenges" inherent in running such a multi-national task force, Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Tuesday that Malaysia was ceding some operational control.

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