KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China will meet early next week to decide on the next step in the search for the Malaysia Airlines jet, while expressing confidence Friday that the hunt was on the right track despite no wreckage being found so far.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the challenges were huge but he told reporters, "I believe we will find MH370 sooner or later."
Hishammuddin said he will travel to Canberra for the meeting on Monday on the approach forward regarding deployment of assets, engagement with victims' families and expert and technical advice.
were detected in early April. Additional equipment is expected to be brought in within the next few weeks to scour an expanded underwater area. The aerial search for surface debris ended this week.
Angus Houston, the Australian head of the search operation, said he was confident the wreckage was in that area based on the most promising leads. He said, however, that the chance of the U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 robotic sub finding the wreckage was "lower than it was when we started the search."
Houston said the ministerial meeting was crucial to "formalize the way ahead to ensure the search continues with urgency and that it doesn't stop at any stage."
He said that the search could take another eight to 12 months but "we are totally committed to find MH370."
Houston also said that Bangladeshi ships, including a vessel fitted with sonar equipment, had so far found nothing in the northern Bay of Bengal, where a resource survey company, Australia-based GeoResonance Pty Ltd., had claimed it found possible plane wreckage.
According to Hishammuddin, Malaysia was still considering whether to hire private deep sea vessels to search the Bay of Bengal area as it could distract the main search and cost involved would be high.
The Malaysian Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Air traffic controllers did not realize the plane was missing until 17 minutes after it disappeared from civilian radar, according to the preliminary report on the plane's disappearance released Thursday by Malaysia's government.
In addition to the five-page report, dated April 9, the government also released other information from the investigation into the flight, including audio recordings of conversations between the cockpit and air traffic control, the plane's cargo manifest and its seating plan.
Malaysia also released a map showing the plane's deduced flight path as well as a document detailing actions taken by authorities in the hours after the Boeing 777 disappeared from radar. The reports were mostly information that has been released since the jet disappeared while flying near the border separating Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace.