Malaysia is grateful for Taiwan’s assistance in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Taiwanese official said yesterday, one day after Taiwan pulled out of the search in the South China Sea because the plane is no longer believed to be in the area.
Taiwanese navy and coast guard vessels had joined an international effort to search the South China Sea for the missing Boeing 777, but Malaysia said on Saturday that the plane — which disappeared on March 8 en route from Malaysia to China — may have deviated drastically from its original flight path.
On Sunday, Taiwan called back its two navy frigates and two coast guard patrol vessels, which had been dispatched to help search for the plane.
“Malaysia has expressed gratitude to us [for helping with the search],” Deputy Minister of National Defense Lee Hsiang-chou (李翔宙) told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in Taipei.
The navy’s Chengkung-class and Lafayette-class frigates and the coast guard vessels are scheduled to return to Taiwan at midday on Thursday, the ministry said.
Taiwan joined the search effort on Monday last week, sending a C-130 plane out on a daily basis over an area of the South China Sea where the plane was first believed to have gone down.
However, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday said investigators believe someone aboard the flight deliberately shut down the communications and tracking systems, changed the flight course and continued to fly the plane for nearly seven hours after it last contact.
The plane could have headed northward from northern Thailand toward Kazakhstan or southward from Indonesia into the Indian Ocean, the prime minister said.
Since then, the search radius has been greatly expanded and Malaysia has called off efforts in the South China Sea in light of the new evidence.
At yesterday’s legislative meeting, Lee said his ministry is willing to participate in international efforts to find the missing plane.
Asked about the possibility of Taiwan sending its frigates and military planes to the Indian Ocean to help search for the plane, a defense official said that it was unlikely due to the distance and other issues involved, such as Taiwan’s ability to use airports and seaports in the region.