Malaysia defends search for missing jet

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Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room set aside for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room set aside for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane walk out from a hotel room after meeting with Malaysian officials, in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Ground staff work on a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A ground staff member walks under a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane leave a hotel room after meeting with Malaysian officials, in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities defended their handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777 on Wednesday even as they acknowledging they were unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared, highlighting the massive task facing an international search mission now in its fifth day.

The mystery over the plane’s whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board the flight — two thirds of them Chinese.

“There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. “We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.”

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the multinational search for the missing plane as an unprecedented and complicated effort and defended his country’s efforts. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 square miles).

“It’s not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search,” he said. “But we will never give up. This we owe to the families” of those on board.

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning and fell off civilian radar screens at 1:30 a.m. about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam. It sent no distress signals or any indication it was experiencing any problems.

Malaysian authorities have since said that say air defense radar picked up traces of what might have been the plane turning back and flying until it reached the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane west of the narrow nation some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the plane’s last known coordinates.

Military and government officials on Wednesday said American experts, and the manufacturer of the radar systems, were examining that data to confirm it showed the Boeing 777. Until then, they said the search would

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