China today denied reports that its aircraft are conducting searches over land in Malaysia for the missing jetliner but said that it was expanding searches at sea.
"Relevant reports of Chinese search in Malaysia is inaccurate. As far as I know, Chinese aircraft are searching possible waters. So I would like to make a clarification here," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told media briefing here today.
He was reacting to comments by Li Jiaxiang, Chairman of China's Civil Aviation Administration that search would be extended to land areas.
Qin said eight Chinese ships as well as two air planes are conducting deep sea searches while on the look out for surface areas.
Meanwhile, China pressed in a third aircraft to conduct search operations in addition to the eight ships. Earlier the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre said its vessels were carrying five helicopters, twelve professional divers and other equipment.
He Jianzhong, head of the centre, said the search will not only cover an area 90 nautical miles long and 25 nautical miles wide, but also move north westward, to an area 60 nautical miles long and wide.
Qin declined to respond to the confusing reports that the plane turned back flew for awhile in Malacca straits. He said per the official information, the plane has not lost contact over the South China Sea.
About so many countries working together to find the plane in the disputed South China Sea waters, he said, "This joint action shows the will of these countries to working together to respond to this incident. In the face of such incident we need to follow humanitarian principle and exchange cooperation."
He also welcomed Japan's plans to send ships for the search operation.
The Chinese government is under immense pressure as 154 passengers of the 239 people on board the missing aircraft were from China and.
Li Jiaxiang, Chairman of China’s Civil Aviation Administration, called the search effort to be expanded. He visited the emergency response and command centre here to learn the latest about the search operation.
The Chinese team is now expanding their search area to northwest of the gulf of Thailand, covering some 17 thousand square km in total.
China has also employed 10 satellites to provide technological support to locate the missing jet.