Dutch PM vows justice for dead 'if Malaysia plane attacked'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Safety and Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, on July 18, 2014

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday vowed "not to rest" in tracking down those responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 if it emerges it was attacked.

The Netherlands has dispatched Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans and a team of forensic experts to Ukraine to probe the disaster, in which 189 Dutch citizens died.

A total of 298 people were killed in Thursday's crash, many of them holiday-makers bound for destinations in Asia or scientists on their way to Melbourne for the 20th International Aids Conference.

"Let me be crystal-clear about this," a visibly angry Rutte told reporters in The Hague.

"Should it emerge that it was an attack, I will personally see to it that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

"We will not rest until they have been brought to book," said Rutte, adding: "We owe it to the victims and their families."

The Dutch prime minister said he had spoken to a number of world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, about the incident "and just a short while ago by telephone to (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin".

"He too assured me that Russia insists on a complete, international and independent investigation," Rutte said.

A Dutch team of forensic investigators left for Ukraine with Timmermans on Friday evening, a ministry spokesman told AFP shortly after 1700 GMT.

Earlier the foreign minister said he would accompany the team to "negotiate free access to the area in order for the experts to do their jobs".

The crash is the Netherlands' second-worst air disaster to date.

The worst was in 1977 when 238 Dutch citizens died at Tenerife in the Canary Islands when two Boeing 747s collided, killing 582 people.