President Barack Obama today said the US was "absolutely committed" to provide more assets in the most expensive hunt in aviation history for a Malaysian jet in the Indian Ocean where 14 underwater missions by a mini-sub have failed to yield any results.
"I can tell you the United States is absolutely committed to providing whatever resources and assets that we can," Obama told a news conference here with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
"Obviously, we don't know all the details of what happened but we do know that, if in fact the plane went down in the ocean in this part of the world, that is a big place and it is a very challenging effort and laborious effort that's going to take quite some time," he said.
The US President's remarks came as the US Navy probe Bluefin-21 undertook its 15th underwater mission to locate wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, that authorities believe crashed in the Indian Ocean.
Obama, whose three-day visit to the South East Asian country comes in nearly five decades by a US President, also defended the Najib government over its handling of the search for the Beijing-bound plane, that mysteriously disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.
"The Malaysian government is working tirelessly to recover the aircraft and investigate exactly what happened. I can't speak for all the countries in the region but I can say that the United States and other partners have found the Malaysian government eager for assistance," he said.
The Malaysian government has come under criticism from relatives of the 239 people, including five Indians, aboard the plane for alleged lack of transparency.
Obama urged "full transparency" but said the US and other countries involved in the multinational search for the plane have found the Malaysian government "fully forthcoming with us in terms of the information that they have." No contacts of interest have been found to date by the Bluefin that nearly completed its missions in the focussed search area, diving to unprecedented depths, is expected to continue examining the areas adjacent to it during mission 15.
The planned air and sea surface search was suspended for today due to deteriorating weather conditions, Perth-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) leading the search said in a statement 51 days after the plane veered off from its route after taking-off from Kuala Lumpur.
Obama, whose visit to Malaysia is the first by a sitting US President since President Lyndon B Johnson in 1966, said he "completely understands the heartache the families are going through and want some answers".
Malaysia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Britain and the US are assisting Australia in trying to solve the most expensive search in aviation history.