BEIJING - China is paying "great attention" to Australia's possible findings on Thursday of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight's debris and has instructed its embassy to provide assistance in search and rescue efforts.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China expects Australia to send ships and planes as soon as possible to the search areas, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency.
"The foreign ministry has instructed the embassy in Australia to stay in close contact with the Australian government and assist in the search and rescue efforts.
"China stands ready with relevant arrangements depending on the latest developments on this matter," he said.
China's response came around 2pm after Australia held a press briefing at 12.30pm and revealed that two objects spotted by satellite in the remote southern Indian Ocean could belong to the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that went missing on March 8.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had told parliament on Thursday morning about the "new and credible" information based on satellite imagery and that four long-range surveillance planes are being diverted to the location.
The Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight carried 239 people in total, including 153 Chinese passengers, whose relatives have gathered in the Chinese capital since March 8 awaiting their return.
At the Metropark Lido hotel, where many of the 400-plus relatives are put up, a hushed silence hung in a ballroom on Thursday as many watched the Australia press briefing on TV screens.
Hopes of their loved ones returning safe and sound dipped a little at hearing news of a possible crash, compared to the preferred scenario among some that the plane had disappeared due to a hijacking attempt.
One of them, a Mr Wen, 63, from coastal Shandong province, refused to believe that the plane had crashed and that his son on board might not have survived.
"I don't believe it. My son is alive," he told The Straits Times.