As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stretched reached nearly one month with no results, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced the creation of a new multinational investigation team Saturday, adding the hunt would continue with "vigor and intensity."
His statements came the same day China's official news agency Xinhua said a "black box detector" deployed by Chinese ship Haixun 01 "detected a pulse signal" in southern Indian Ocean waters. Xinhua said it has not yet determined if the signal was related to the missing jet. The signal was picked up around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude.
The Australian government agency coordinating the search would not immediately comment on the report of the pings, The Associated Press reported.
Also on Saturday, Xinhau reported a Chinese air force plane spotted a number of white floating objects in the search area, which is northwest of the western Australian city of Perth.
Malaysia Airlines' Beijing-bound Flight 370, with 239 people aboard, lost communication with civilian air controllers soon after it took off early March 8 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. No emergency signals or distress messages were received before the plane vanished from radar.
"The search operation has been difficult, challenging and complex," Hussein said in a press briefing Saturday. "In spite of all this, our determination remains undiminished."
Malaysia will continue to lead the investigation, yet an independent "investigator in charge" would be appointed to head a new investigation team, Hussein said.
That mulitnational team will examine three main areas related to the missing jetliner. It will look at airworthiness, including maintenance, structures and systems; operations, such as flight recorders and meteorology; and medical and human factors such as "psychology, pathology and survival factors," he said.
The team will include representatives from Australia, as well as China, the United States, Britain and France, Hussein said.
Hussein also announced three new committees. A "next of kin committee," will provide families of passengers with information on the search operation and provide support after the search operation concludes, he said. Another committee will oversee the formation of the new investigation team. And a third committee work with other countries, such as Australia, on the deployment of assets for the search operation.
On Saturday, up to 10 military planes, three civilian jets and 11 ships assisted in the hunt for the plane, according to the Australian government agency coordinating the search efforts. The overall search area is an 84,000-square-mile zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
Military and civilian planes, ships with deep-sea searching equipment and a British nuclear submarine scoured the waters for debris, as well as any clues that could lead to the "black box" recorders that hold vital information about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's last hours.
One big issue as time goes on: The sound-emitting beacons in the flight and voice recorders could soon fall silent as their batteries die after sounding electronic "pings" after about a month.
Two ships, the Australian navy's Ocean Shield and the British HMS Echo, carrying sophisticated equipment that can hear the recorders' pings, returned Saturday to an area investigators hope is close to where the plane went down.
Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the joint agency coordinating the operation, acknowledged the search area was essentially a best guess, and noted the time when the plane's locator beacons would shut down was "getting pretty close."
Contributing: The Associated Press