Orange objects spotted by a search plane hunting for wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet turned out to be nothing more than fishing equipment, Australian officials said Monday as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott renewed his nation's commitment to keep up the search but warned it had become "an extraordinarily difficult'' task.
"If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it,'' Abbott said of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. "But I don't want to underestimate just how difficult it is.''
As Abbott addressed a televised news conference, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said an international force of 10 aircraft and 10 ships was heading back into the search area Monday morning off Perth in the Indian Ocean.
Abbott declined to state how long his nation was prepared to continue the air and sea search, which has thus far failed to recover any debris or wreckage confirmed to be linked to the Boeing 777 aircraft. He said no time limit had been set.
"We can keep searching for quite some time to come, and we will keep searching for quite some time to come,'' he said.
Abbott also said that "absolutely overwhelming" evidence indicates the plane was lost in the south Indian Ocean.
"This is an extraordinarily difficult exercise,'' he said. "The best brains in the world are applying themselves to this task.''
Malaysia's Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced in his daily press briefing Monday that a new joint search coordination agency will be created and operated out of Perth. Hishammuddin also said he will travel to Hawaii on Monday for a scheduled meeting of Asean defense ministers.
On Sunday, an Australian pilot searching for the plane, which was lost with 239 people aboard, a majority of them from China, said his crew spotted four orange items that could serve as a "promising lead" in the investigation. But on Monday, Jesse Platts, a spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, said the objects had been analyzed and officials had confirmed "they have nothing to do with the missing flight."
On Sunday, more than two dozen of those Chinese family members arrived in Kuala Lumpur and immediately held a protest at a hotel, holding up banners that read, "We want evidence, truth, dignity" in Chinese, and "Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back."
Contributing: Associated Press