Part of the search mission for the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing last weekend with 239 people aboard is being halted, Vietnamese officials said Wednesday.

"We still searched some areas today, while other activities are being suspended," Deputy Transportation Minister Pham Quy Tieu told the Tuoi Tre newspaper.

The missing plane may have turned around and changed course, heading west toward the Strait of Malacca, officials said.

"We have not ruled out the possibility of a turn on the route before the plane disappeared from the radar," Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud said in a statement.

The Malaysian daily Berita Harian published statements attributed to Daud about the plane being detected heading west toward the Strait of Malacca, but the general denied that he made the comments.

The international search fleet, which was joined Wednesday by Indian navy frigates, has expanded its operations to the Strait of Malacca and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, but it has not found any signs of the missing plane.

Japan is sending a C-130 Hercules military transport plane to assist in the search effort.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200, left Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday and was scheduled to arrive in Beijing six hours later.

Malaysian Defense Minister and acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday that the search would continue until the plane's fate was known.

"We will never give up hope, we owe it to the families," the minister said in a press conference.

An international fleet of ships and planes is searching 500,000 sq. nautical miles for the missing jet.

Australia, China, the United States, the Philippines, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have committed aircraft and ships to the search operation.

Searchers have not picked up any electronic signals from the plane's beacons. EFE