MH370 ‘mostly likely’ lies north of search zone: Experts
MH370 ‘mostly likely’ lies north of search zone: Experts
A vast underwater hunt for the Malaysia Airlines jet off Australia’s west coast was halted in January when no trace was found of the plane, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing three years ago carrying 239 people.
The Australian-led undersea search — the most expensive ever of its kind — operated on the assumption that MH370 went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, based on satellite data.
But relatives pleaded for the search to be extended following analysis by Australian and international experts released in December that concluded the aircraft was not in the search zone but may be further north.
Three fragments were also recovered from the plane outside the official search zone on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-meter wing part known as a flaperon found on La Reunion island.
The new report by Australia’s national science body CSIRO supported the northern theory using data and analysis from ocean testing of an actual Boeing 777 flaperon.
As part of the test, the wing part was cut down to match photographs of MH370’s flaperon and then placed in waters near Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, an island state south of Australia’s mainland.
“The arrival of MH370’s flaperon at La Reunion in July 2015 now makes perfect sense,” said CSIRO scientist David Griffin, adding that how the flaperon responded to wind, waves and ocean currents was crucial.
He said testing with an actual flaperon “added an extra level of assurance” to the findings from earlier drift modelling work.
“We add both (wind and waves) together in our model to simulate the drift across the ocean, then compare the results with observations of where debris was and wasn’t found, in order to deduce the location of the aircraft.
“We cannot be absolutely certain, but that is where all the evidence we have points us, and this new work leaves us more confident in our findings.”
The report was welcomed by Transport Minister Darren Chester who said it was provided to Malaysia.
“The CSIRO report has been provided to Malaysia for consideration in its ongoing investigation into the disappearance of MH370,” he said in a statement.
“Malaysia is the lead investigator and any future requests in relation to searching for MH370 would be considered by Australia, at that time.”
But he added it was “important to note that it does not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370.”
Australia said in January when the full area was scoured that the hunt would not be restarted without “credible new evidence.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which led the original search mission, said the report “further confirms the most likely location of MH370 is in the new search area.”
The old search zone — a 120,000 square kilometer area off western Australia — was largely defined from scant clues available from satellite “pings” and calculations of how much fuel was on board MH370.
Australia maintain South China Sea patrols despite encounter with Chinese navy
CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s prime minister said his country has a “perfect right” to traverse the South China Sea after a media report Friday that the Chinese navy challenged three Australian warships in the hotly contested waterway.
The Chinese “challenged” two Australian frigates and an oil replenishment ship this month as the Australian vessels were sailing to Vietnam, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing anonymous defense officials.
It is not clear what took place during the encounter while China was conducting its largest ever naval exercises in the region.
China’s Defense Ministry defended its navy’s actions, saying the report “does not conform with the facts.”
On April 15, ships from the Chinese and Australian navies “encountered each other in the South China Sea,” it said in a statement. “The Chinese ships employed professional language in communicating with the Australian side, operated legally and according to regulation, professionally and safely,” the statement said.
No details were given about what was communicated during the exchange or if any other actions were taken.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has built several islands to bolster its position in the waterway where other governments have competing claims and which is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
Australia has resisted pressure from the US, its most important defense ally, to challenge the Chinese territorial zones, which are not recognized by international law. US Navy vessels regularly sail close to Chinese-built features that include military installations, drawing protests from Beijing.
“We maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world and, in this context, we’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans, including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. He did not comment on the specific incident when questioned by reporters in London.
The Defense Department said it did not provide operational details related to ships transiting the South China Sea. But it confirmed the three warships had arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday. They are making a three-day goodwill visit to Vietnam.
Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defense Association, a security policy think-tank, said the first aspect of such a challenge was usually a radio warning that the Australians were in Chinese territorial waters and a demand for identification. The Australians would have replied that they were in international waters.
The next levels of challenge involve sending an aircraft and ship to investigate.
“It just escalates. Eventually if they’re in your territorial waters and they’re not meant to be there, you might fire a shot across their bows — but no one has done that for years, apart from the North Koreans,” James said.
Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of US forces in the Pacific, has invited Australia to mount joint naval patrols in the South China Sea and has described China as “a disruptive transnational force.”
President Donald Trump has nominated the outspoken critic of China as the next US ambassador to Australia.