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Vietnam downgrades search for missing jet, considering request to move efforts to west

  • Indonesia Malaysia Plane-1.jpg

    An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, March 13, 2014. The hunt for the missing jetliner has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara) (The Associated Press)

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    Children read messages and well wishes displayed for all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 on the walls of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) (The Associated Press)

  • Malaysia Plane Armchair Sleuths -3.jpg

    Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand, Thursday, March 13, 2014. With no distress call, no sign of wreckage and very few answers, the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane is turning into one of the biggest aviation mysteries since Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. (AP Photo) (The Associated Press)

  • AP10ThingsToSee China Malaysia Plane-4.jpg

    AP10ThingsToSee - Hotel security officers guard at an entrance door of a hotel room set aside for relatives or friends of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) (The Associated Press)

  • 92fea52626ac560a4e0f6a7067001e9e.jpg

    Muslim men offer prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia's civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) (The Associated Press)

Vietnam says it has downgraded but not stopped its search for the missing jetliner in the South China Sea and has been asked by Malaysian authorities to consider sending planes and ships to the Strait to Malacca.

The statement Friday is a sign that the focus of the search effort is switching to the west of Malaysia, to the strait and further west into the Indian Ocean.

It follows remarks by a U.S. official that the Boeing 777 sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early Saturday.

If that is true, then it vastly expands the area the lost jet might be.

Vietnam search spokesman Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Son says the status of the hunt has switched from "emergency to regular."