The statement cited the Kenya-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board, including eight from China. He visited the crash site, standing in the gaping crater flecked with debris.
The Max mock-up is the newest version of Boeing's workhorse 737 models, the world's most popular commercial aircraft.
Air traffic monitor Flightradar24 reported that the plane's "vertical speed was unstable after take-off".
The reason for the crash is not yet known.
They said investigators would examine the wreckage and bodies for any signs of burns or unusual forces and study the shape and size of the wreckage field.
Boeing said in a tweet that it was "closely monitoring the situation".
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The Boeing 737 Max 8 was one of 30 being delivered to the airline, Boeing said in a statement in July when the first was delivered. "Ethiopian Airlines staff will be sent to the accident scene and will do everything possible to assist the emergency services". The decision was made before USA investigators reached the crash site, the Journal said. It has flown more than 1,200 hours.
The crash was strikingly similar to that of a Lion Air jet of the same Boeing model in Indonesian seas previous year, killing 189 people. Among those were seven staffers of the World Food Programme; six staff from the U.N. Office in Nairobi; two each from the Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees and the International Telecommunications Union; and one each from the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Organization for Migration in Sudan, World Bank, and UN Assistance Mission in Somalia. Before losing contact, GebreMariam said, the pilot sent a distress call and was given approval to return to the tarmac.
Ethiopian authorities are leading the investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya and others.
The incident killed all 149 passengers and eight crew members onboard.
African air travel has improved in recent years, with the International Air Transport Association in November noting "two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type".
The Ethiopian prime minister's official Twitter account on Sunday expressed condolences to families of those lost in an Ethiopian airline's flight to Nairobi, without giving details.