Li promises continued support in call with Australian prime minister
No effort must be spared in the coordinated search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday.
The multinational hunt for the plane remains challenging, but it must not ease up, Li said in a phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
"We must strengthen search efforts — that is our responsibility to the victims and their families," Li said, adding that China will continue to work with Australia, Malaysia and other nations.
MH370, carrying 239 people, including 154 Chinese, vanished on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
The Australia-led search mission in the southern Indian Ocean is racing against the clock, with the battery powering the locator signal of the black box expected to run out within days.
China has deployed 10 ships and several aircraft to look for any trace of MH370. It is also coordinating more than 60 commercial vessels and 20 fishing vessels in the area to aid the multinational search.
Abbott said in the telephone call that he appreciated Li's concerns and spoke highly of China's effort in the search.
Australia would also like to strengthen communication and cooperation with China, Malaysia and the other parties involved in the operation, he said.
Australian coordination chief Angus Houston told reporters earlier in the week that the search could take a long time.
Houston, who leads the newly established Joint Agency Coordination Center, said it was crucial to find debris or wreckage of the missing plane to reduce the search area and use advanced equipment to locate the black box.
At least 10 military planes from several countries — including a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, two Australian air force P3 Orions, two Malaysian C-130s and a US navy P8 Poseidon — have been involved in the hunt.
A Chinese escort naval fleet headed for anti-piracy duty off Somalia has reached waters south of Australia's Christmas Island and has joined the operation. The Chinese fleet includes helicopters.
The China Maritime Search and Rescue Center and the Chinese navy ordered the fleet to join Chinese vessel Haixun 31 in a search area of 100,000 square kilometers, Xinhua News Agency reported.
On Wednesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived in Perth to observe operations firsthand.
Najib will be in the Western Australia city to "thank everyone involved in the search", Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.
At a news conference for Malaysian media in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang also thanked Malaysia for the search efforts.
Huang's comments came amid criticism from the Chinese public about confusion and delays in the information provided on MH370.
There have been concerted search and rescue efforts, and Malaysia and China are like close family and neighbors, Huang was quoted by the Malay-language Utusan Online as saying.
This incident will not affect bilateral ties, Huang said.
Malaysian authorities also held a closed-door meeting with families of the missing Chinese passengers in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said 29 next-of-kin from 18 families attended the briefing.
But some family members of the Chinese victims told reporters in Beijing that they were not satisfied with a closed-door meeting with Malaysian authorities to talk about the search.
"Our hearts have turned cold," said a representative of the relatives who viewed the meeting via video at the Metropark Lido Hotel in Beijing.