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April 15, 2014

China Slams NYT Report Questioning Beijing's Role in Malaysia Jet Search

by VOA News

China has slammed a New York Times report suggesting Beijing's incompetence and desire to demonstrate its technological prowess has hindered the search for the missing Malaysian airliner.

The Chinese government has poured a massive amount of resources, including ships, planes and satellites, into helping find the jet, which was carrying 154 Chinese among its 227 passengers.

On at least two occasions, Chinese investigators claimed to have made potentially breakthrough discoveries that were dismissed days later by international investigators.

The Times on Tuesday reported other countries involved in the search are "exasperated" at the Chinese efforts. Speaking anonymously, one senior U.S. defense official said false leads are slowing down the investigation.

When asked about the article, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was "very dissatisfied." She added that China's only purpose is to do everything it can to find the plane.

“I know the world is still watching closely the search efforts for MH370.  Now we have entered a critical stage for the search," said Hua. "I don’t know what the purpose is of the New York Times to publish this story at such a critical time. It is irresponsible."

The Times article specifically focused on China's claim that its Haixun 01 patrol ship detected underwater signals believed to have come from the missing plane's flight data recorder.

A British ship, the HMS Echo, was diverted temporarily to help verify the claim, even though the Chinese vessel was operating well outside the search area then designated by international authorities.

The Times quoted unnamed officials who said the false lead may have cost searchers the opportunity to record more signals from the black box, which is now believed to have run out of batteries.

It also noted that very early on in the investigation Chinese authorities released satellite images purporting to show wreckage of the Boeing 777. It later was determined to be unrelated ocean debris.

Many analysts say the search has become an important opportunity for China to show off its rising military strength to its Asian neighbors.