Malaysia is sending a team of experts to work with their Australian counterparts to determine if a piece of debris found on the coast of Mozambique this week came from the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there was a high probability that the metre-long piece of white metal was from a Boeing 777 and that the location where it was found fitted the drift modelling used in the search for MH370.
"If the debris is from MH370, it follows the drifting pattern established," Datuk Seri Liow told reporters at a press conference yesterday.
The Malaysian team comprises representatives from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), MAS and the MH370 investigation team, he added.
Flight MH370 with 239 people on board was en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur when it lost contact with aviation officials in the early hours of March 8, 2014.
Yesterday, Mr Liow cautioned against drawing hasty conclusions, saying that investigators should be allowed to determine if the debris is from the missing plane first, before the authorities take any follow-up action.
"Let's not jump the gun. If it is really MH370, then we... launch a search (in the Mozambique area)," he said.
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday it had "noted" reports about the debris.
"We will closely track the development of the situation, and maintain close contact with relevant sides. We will also work with relevant countries to make great efforts to continue the search for MH370," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to a Reuters report.
An extensive search operation being conducted in the southern In- dian Ocean has so far found no trace of the aircraft. A piece of the plane's wing was found washed ashore on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean in July last year.
On the current search, which is expected to be completed in June, Mr Liow said they stand guided by a multinational team of experts.
"It's too early to say if the search will be concluded by June. Once all 120,000km (of the ocean have been) searched, we will have a tripartite meeting (Malaysia, Australia and China) in June, then experts will guide us on the next move."
He added that the MH370 international investigation team will issue an interim statement on the status of its findings next Tuesday, which is the second anniversary of the plane's disappearance.