Amid conflicting signals, France expands search for debris from Malaysia Airlines flight

A French search plane lifted off on Friday for a birds-eye view of Reunion Island, seeking any more potential debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

France announced it would bolster efforts to search for more debris from the plane missing for 16 months, after the discovery of a wing fragment that officials are all but certain broke off the Boeing 777.

There remained a difference of opinion between Malaysian officials and their counterparts in France, the U.S. and Australia over whether the flap found on the French Indian Ocean island last week was definitely from Flight 370. 

While the others said the piece is probably from 370, the Malaysians said there is no doubt. Relatives of the missing were frustrated over the discrepancy.

In Beijing, about 30 Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers marched Friday to the Malaysian Embassy hoping to talk to an official about why Malaysia had confirmed the part came from the plane when French investigators had not. They scuffled briefly with police, who blocked the relatives from approaching the mission.

Some criticism came from within Malaysia itself. Opposition lawmaker Liew Chin Tong said in a statement that Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai must explain "the haste and hurry" to declare the wreckage came from Flight 370.

"A quick conclusion will not do justice to the next of kin of the victims," he said.

An official in Prime Minister Najib Razak's office who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the difference of opinion said the Malaysian government owes it to the public and the families of those on the plane to reveal what it knows and to deliver the news first.

"It is our plane and we know it best. Since the French is the investigating team here, they do not want to take our word for it and they want to do more tests — that is fine with us," the official said. "We are accustomed to criticism from day one, but please give us credit because we are doing our best to cope with this."

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared March 8, 2014, on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Officials believe it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all aboard, but the wreckage and the cause remain elusive despite a vast ongoing search led by Australia.

Malaysian officials have said the plane's movements were consistent with deliberate actions by someone on the plane, suggesting someone in the cockpit intentionally flew the aircraft off course.