Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak got an earful from the Chinese government on the first day of his six-day diplomatic trip to the country. While Najib insisted the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 did not affect bilateral relations, Chinese leaders demanded once again the Malaysian government take the search “seriously.”
According to Chinese news outlet Xinhua, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Najib the Chinese government would like an entirely new search plan from the Malaysian government soon. “We expect Malaysia to take the leading and coordinating role, come up with a new search plan for the jet at an early date, and take the investigation seriously,” Li said in a statement regarding the visit.
Najib, in response, noted that the search “requires the cooperation of several countries” because “this tragic incident is so complex and unprecedented.” “We owe it to [the relatives of those onboard] to continue the search,” Najib added. Li, in turn, did also extend the help of the Chinese government, adding that “we have never stopped our search efforts and place great importance on the related investigation and settlement.”
Najib later told Malaysian journalists that the meeting had gone well. “There was an acceptable and positive mood during our meeting and at the dinner. I struck a very good working relationship with the Premier,” he said at the press conference, according to the New Straits Times.
The new search plan request follows the revelation that investigators now believe the missing plane might not be anywhere near the the designated search area. The area in the southwestern Indian Ocean “can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370,” Australian authorities announced this week after months of searching in the area. The news followed an official conclusion that radio “pings” in the area were not from the plane’s black box, instead likely issued by either ships in the area or marine animals.
Nonetheless, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan assured the public that the search was on the right track: “This was the best area to look at the time. We still don’t have anything that confirms that it’s the wrong place. But we will do our analysis and we will determine the best search area for the next phase.”
China’s renewed pressure on the Malaysian government regarding the missing Boeing 777 echoes the tension between the two countries in the immediate aftermath of the plane’s disappearance. In March, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman called Malaysia’s efforts “pretty chaotic” and rushed the search, telling Malaysia to “speed up” the process.