New satellite images have emerged showing what could be debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has been missing for 19 days.
Thai and Japanese satellites spotted what could be hundreds of items floating in a 155-square mile area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
"We have never said that the pieces are part of MH370 but have so far identified them only as floating objects," he said.
Increasing numbers of images of floating debris suggests that searchers are at last closing in on where Flight 370 went down, killing all 239 people aboard.
But what ultimately happened to the Boeing 777, and why it appears to have crashed hundreds of miles from its planned route, still are open questions that have attracted worldwide attention.
High seas and inclement weather have prevented dozens of search planes and ships from reaching any debris to determine whether it is connected to the missing plane.
Severe weather forced a team of 11 aircraft and five ships to turn back earlier this week from an area where French satellite pictures showed more than 100 objects that could have been from the plane, Reuters said.
Search flights had to be called off Thursday afternoon.
"The forecast in the area was calling for severe icing, severe turbulence and near-zero visibility," said Lt. Com. Adam Schantz, who leads a US Navy maritime surveillance aircraft detachment, Reuters said.
Australia's Maritime Safety Authority confirmed Thursday that flights had been called off but said ships were continuing to search in battering waves.
"It's the nature of search and rescue -- it's a fickle beast," Flying Officer Peter Moore, captain of an Australian AP-3C Orion, told Reuters after turning around 600 miles from the search zone.
"This is incredibly important to us," he said. "The reality is we have 239 people whose families want some information and closure."
Better weather is forecast for Friday, Reuters said.
Investigators suspect someone on board turned off the airplane's communications systems, suggesting hijack or sabotage, but have not ruled out the possibility of technical problems dooming the flight.
An undersea drone and high-tech black box detector were sent this week by the US, Reuters said.
The plane's black box -- which automatically records cockpit voice and data -- should reveal what happened to Flight 370, but time is running out on the batteries that power the devices' locator beacons.