The so-far fruitless search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370
has been a massive international military undertaking that has
included patrol flights by state-of-the-art U.S. spy planes.
China has also put its own military build-up on full display,
including dedicating high-resolution satellites and advanced
warships to the hunt for the jetliner.
But Malaysian authorities face heavy criticism, particularly from
China, for mismanaging the effort, now in its fourth week, and
holding back information. Most of the 239 people on board the flight
Hagel did not direct blame at Malaysia, which has sent its defense
chief to Hagel's three-day gathering of ministers from the 10-member
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). But he portrayed the
search for the jetliner as a learning opportunity.
"There's always lessons to be learned," Hagel told reporters
traveling with him.
"We're going to go back, the Malaysians will go back, all the ASEAN
nations will go back and walk through this. What could have been
done? Maybe what should have been done?"
It was unclear from his remarks how much of that discussion might
take place during the informal talks in Hawaii, which include
sessions on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
A senior U.S. defense official, briefing reporters ahead of Hagel's
trip, which will continue to Japan, China and Mongolia, said the
Malaysia jet search effort highlighted "the importance of working
together and cooperating."
"On the one hand it has shown that we have a number of countries
that can come together and put aside rivalries and differences to
work together," the official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity. "On the other hand, it highlights that we have a lot
further to go."
The official stressed the need for deeper cooperation on an ongoing
basis, so that nations could be better positioned to cooperate upon
crises like the jetliner's disappearance.
[to top of second column]
Malaysia says the plane was likely diverted deliberately, probably
by a skilled aviator, leading to speculation of involvement by one
or more of the pilots. Investigators, however, have determined no
apparent motive or other red flags among the 227 passengers and 12
Malaysia's defense minister, who is also acting transport minister,
Hishammuddin Hussein, has said he would discuss the deployment of
"more specific military assets" for the search during the talks in
Hagel noted that he has met all of Malaysia's requests since the
jetliner dropped from civilian radar in the early hours of March 8
as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"I've talked to the minister twice personally about this. We have
complied with those requests," Hagel said.
The search is now focused on a vast, inhospitable swathe of the
southern Indian Ocean west of the Australian city of Perth, but an
international team of planes and ships have so far failed to spot
any sign of the jetliner.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.