Malaysia's transport minister said Saturday the hunt for MH370 would be sent "back to the drawing board" if the search now under way comes up empty, but insisted his government remained committed to finding the plane.
Liow Tiong Lai's comments, made on the eve of the tragedy's anniversary, echoed recent remarks by Australian officials who have suggested the expensive search effort in a 60,000-square-kilometre (23,000-square-mile) area of the southern Indian Ocean could be abandoned.
"If the search does not yield anything by May or after we have completed the 60,000-square-kilometre search, then we have to go back to the drawing board," Liow told AFP in an interview.
He said that would mean re-examining all available data that was used to determine the suspected crash zone for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, but would not specify what could happen next.
But he added: "I would like to say to the next of kin that we will continue to be committed to the search."
Australian officials suggested that the expensive search effort in a 60,000-square-kilometre (23,000-square-mile) area of the southern Indian Ocean could be abandoned.
Sunday's anniversary looms as a painful milestone for relatives of the 239 passengers and crew aboard the plane -- which inexplicably diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route shortly after takeoff last March 8 -- many of whom are deeply unhappy with the lack of progress.
Four ships involved in the Australian-led search are now using sophisticated sonar systems to scour a huge and previously unmapped undersea region.
More than 40 percent of the "priority search zone" has been scanned, with nothing detected on the seafloor aside from a few sunken shipping containers.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday that, while committed to the current operation, he "can't promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever".
Many next of kin have been deeply critical of Malaysia's initial response to the crisis, saying that opportunities to intercept or track the plane were lost.
Liow said an international investigative team formed in the weeks after the plane vanished was expected to hand over its findings on the sequence of events leading up to the disappearance any day now.
He said the government needed to review the report before releasing it and he did not know exactly when it would be publicly available.
However, some next of kin said Malaysia Airlines had informed them the report would be released at 0700 GMT on Sunday.
AFP could not immediately confirm that.
'Committed to finding answers'
Liow, who was named transport minister three months after the disappearance, said the government "will take appropriate actions if necessary", based on the report's findings, but declined to speculate on its contents.
But he denied accusations by some family members that Malaysia's government and national airline had not been transparent, saying authorities had regularly shared all that they know.
Sunday's anniversary looms as a painful milestone for relatives of the 239 passengers and crew aboard the plane -- which inexplicably diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route shortly after takeoff last March 8.
"We are very transparent in this. I would like to emphasis that," he said.
"I have told the next of kin: they are seeking for answers? I also am seeking for answers. I am committed to look for the answers for them."
Families were again angered on January 30 when Malaysia declared all on board to be presumed dead.
The government said the move would allow relatives to seek compensation and otherwise move forward, but next of kin say the declaration cannot be made without proof of a crash.
Malaysia's government has announced no plans to mark the anniversary on Sunday.
Malaysia Airlines will hold a private ceremony for staff and the next of kin of the flight crew at their headquarters.
A separate public event is to be held at a venue in Kuala Lumpur, organised by an association of MH370 families.
Liow said he hoped that MH370's legacy will be safer air travel, noting that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has taken up Malaysian calls to increase the tracking of airliners.
Regulators will require real-time tracking of all passenger aircraft beginning next year.