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Xi offers appreciation to Australia for MH370 hunt

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-12 08:24

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Xi offers appreciation to Australia for MH370 hunt

President Xi Jinping (R) meets Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday. Abbott is on a four-day visit to China. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

Xi offers sincere appreciation to Australian PM for MH370 hunt

President Xi Jinping on Friday offered China's sincere appreciation to visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the Australian-coordinated search for the Malaysia Airlines jet.

Xi's comments followed the clearest signs yet of progress in the search for the Boeing 777-200 on flight MH370.

Speaking at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi said Abbott has "instructed relevant Australian agencies to provide help and support to China's participation in the search".

"We would like to offer our sincere appreciation. We will continue all our search efforts and in the meantime stay in close communication and cooperation with the Australian side."

Abbott, making a four-day visit to China, met Xi on Friday afternoon.

Xi offers appreciation to Australia for MH370 huntThe Australian leader thanked Xi for the "immediate assistance that China provided to Australia once the search for MH370 shifted from the northern corridor to the southern corridor" areas in the Indian Ocean.

"China was the very first country to provide ships for the search and we have been very grateful for the help," Abbott said.

He told Xi the search "will be a very long, slow and painstaking process".

Earlier on Friday, Abbott said authorities were confident that signals detected deep in the Indian Ocean came from the plane's black box flight recorders.

The search area in the multinational hunt for the plane has been narrowed in an attempt to locate the source of the signals, first heard a week ago, Abbott told reporters in Shanghai.

"We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370," Abbott said.

"Nevertheless, we're getting to the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade.

"We are confident that we know the position of the black box to within some kilometers.

"But confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost 4 kilometers beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened on that flight."

The black box, or flight data and cockpit voice recorders, may hold the answers to why communication with the plane was lost and why it veered so far off course. The jet vanished on March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese passengers.

Searchers are racing against time because the batteries powering the black box locator beacons last for only about a month. Finding the recorders after the batteries fail will be extremely difficult, because the sea in the area is 4,500 meters deep.

On Friday, up to 15 military and civilian aircraft and 13 ships assisted in the search for the plane.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield is towing a US Navy device that detects black box signals. Two sounds it heard last Saturday were determined to be consistent with the signals emitted from aircraft flight recorders. Two more sounds were detected in the same general area on Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Friday that China began a joint search with Australia on Thursday for any signs of the jetliner.

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01, together with vessels from the Ministry of Transport and other Chinese naval ships, were searching an area of about 58,000 sq km defined by Australia, Hong said at a regular press briefing. Other Chinese ships are still combing the eastern part of the southern Indian Ocean.

He said countries in the region have the capacity to cope with the challenge through their joint efforts, and China is willing to work with all sides, including Australia, to speed up the search.

China would strengthen coordination and assistance with Malaysia and Australia to continue the hunt for the plane, he said.

Families still waiting

On Friday, more than 200 family members of the Chinese passengers continued to wait in Beijing for further information from the Malaysian authorities.

Wang Guanyi, a representative for the families, said updates on the search still left many questions unanswered.

The Malaysian authorities sent a representative to improve communication with the family members and to provide more updates.

During their meeting, the relatives pressed for more information on the investigation into the flight, including access to the audio records of the pilots' communication with air traffic control.

AP and Jin Haixing contributed to this story.

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