|(Flight MH370) False leads, self-interest, mistrust, and ham-fisted response hinder search
Deep distrust between Asian neighbors and sensitive security issues are jamming essential communication lines in the chaotic hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, analysts say.
Bickering between Malaysia, China and others involved in the search has exposed longstanding tensions and prevented a coordinated response, they said.
“There clearly are communication problems on multiple levels. There is an underlying lack of trust in these matters,'' Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University, told AFP.
“The issues of protecting territory, security intelligence and interests are starting to win over the common goal of finding the plane and closure.''
Levels of confusion appeared to hit startling new highs today when Malaysia claimed that Chinese satellite photos, which had appeared to indicate possible debris in the South China Sea, were released in error and showed no such thing.
China, which is deeply involved because there were 153 Chinese citizens on board, on Wednesday accused the Malaysian authorities of releasing information in a “chaotic'' fashion.
It then appeared to surprise the Malaysians by releasing the satellite data. Malaysia and Vietnam deployed planes to the area highlighted by the Chinese but found nothing.
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today that China had told them the satellite photos were released “by mistake and did not show any debris.’’
Highlighting the lack of cooperation, Vietnam Civil Aviation Authority deputy director Dinh Viet Thang earlier said Vietnamese officials had only learnt of the Chinese satellite sighting on the internet, not from official channels.
China, though, insisted that Malaysia was to blame for the bulk of the confusion.
“As Malaysia Airlines is state owned, the Malaysian government is the core force in the fact-finding mission,'' Xinhua said.
“Unless transparency is ensured, the huge international search operation can never be as fruitful as we hope and expect.''
But Malaysia's Hussein denied that there were problems between countries involved in the search operation.
Singapore-based Aviation expert Terence Fan said military radar from various countries may have detected the plane but governments were reluctant to share the data because it would reveal their capabilities and compromise security.
“There may be some military sensitivity because the radar is not continuous, it sort of sweeps around a couple of times,'' Fan said.
“The rate at which they can take the picture can also reveal how good the radar system is and that I think is probably why the countries around here are not very fond of sharing the information.''
But Hussein had noted that Malaysia was releasing sensitive radar data that would normally be kept confidential.