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Search planes were flying on Thursday to an area where a Chinese satellite has seen objects that could be debris from the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 missing for almost six days, but those waters had been checked before and nothing found, officials said.
At the same time, China heaped pressure on Malaysia to improve its coordination over the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane, which disappeared early on Saturday on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Of the 239 people on board, up to 154 were Chinese.
Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, demanded that the "relevant party" step up coordination while China's civil aviation chief said he wanted a "smoother" flow of information from Malaysia, which has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the disaster.
Vietnamese and Malaysian planes would scan waters where a Chinese government agency website said a satellite had photographed three "suspicious floating objects" on Sunday. The location was close to where the plane lost contact with air traffic control.
"We are aware and we sent planes to cover that area over the past three days," Vietnamese Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu told Reuters. "Today a CASA plane will search the area again," he said, referring to a twin-turboprop military aircraft.
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on his Twitter feed: "Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Bombardier has already been dispatched to investigate alleged claims of debris being found by Chinese satellite imagery."
China's civil aviation chief, Li Jiaxiang, said there was no proof that the objects in the South China Sea were connected to the missing aircraft.
One U.S. official close to the plane investigation also said the Chinese satellite report was a "red herring."
It was the latest in scores of often confusing leads for a multi-national search team that has been combing 27,000 square nautical miles (93,000 square km), an area the size of Hungary, for the Boeing 777-200ER.
On Wednesday, Malaysia's air force chief said military radar had traced what could have been the jetliner to an area south of the Thai holiday island of Phuket, hundreds of miles to the west of its last known position.
His statement followed a series of conflicting accounts of the flight path of the plane, which left authorities uncertain even which ocean to search in for Flight MH370.
The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens came shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, less than an hour after