- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2014

President Obama on Sunday defended the Malaysian government’s handling of its search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, saying officials are working hard to find the plane believed to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

“The Malaysian government is working tirelessly to recover the aircraft and investigate exactly what happened,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“I can’t speak for all the countries in the region but I can say that the United States and other partners have found the Malaysian government eager for assistance and fully forthcoming with us in terms of the information that they have.”

The U.S. is providing ships and detection equipment in the deep-sea search for the aircraft, which vanished last month after taking off from Malaysia with 239 people on board. Its destination was Beijing.

The president said he understands the suffering of families of the passengers, but said the search is difficult because of the vast territory involved and the lack of precise information about the plane’s flight path.

“If in fact the plane went down in the ocean in this part of the world, that is a big place and it is a very challenging effort and laborious effort that’s going to take quite some time,” he said.

On the third leg of his week-long tour of Asia, Mr. Obama also called again for international support of sanctions against Russia, saying that “Russia has not lifted a finger to help” to disarm pro-Moscow militants in the crisis in Ukraine.

“It’s important for us to make sure that we’re part of an international coalition in sending that message and Russia is isolated, rather than [sending a message that] the U.S. is trying to pull Ukraine out of his orbit,” he said. “Russia has not lifted a finger to help — in fact, there’s strong evidence that they’ve been encouraging the kinds of activities that have taken place.”

Russia state news accused Ukraine Saturday of mobilizing 15,000 troops in the suburbs of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine “in order to wipe out the city and its residents.”

Mr. Obama also downplayed his refusal to meet with Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. White House national security adviser Susan E. Rice is scheduled to meet with Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who has been convicted on sodomy charges, on Monday instead.

“The fact that I haven’t met Mr. Anwar in and of itself is not indicative of our lack of concern, given the fact that there are a lot of people I don’t meet with and opposition leaders that I don’t meet with,” Mr. Obama said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about them.”

The president visited the National Mosque of Malaysia, where two former prime ministers of the predominantly Muslim country are buried.