Tuesday, 12 December, 2017

Chinese Navy aids search for missing United States sailor

Seaman Dorsey Cadette left of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem points out a smoke signal during man-overboard training in the South China Sea US Navy sailor missing in South China Sea
Christy Curtis | 06 August, 2017, 01:33

It said the sailor went missing when the USA ship had been more than 100 nautical miles southwest of the contested Scarborough Shoal, but did not elaborate. At the time the ship was conducting routine operations 140 miles west of Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

On Thursday, China said it helped the United States search for the sailor, a rare cooperative gesture in the disputed waters.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and Japanese Coast Guard spent over 50 hours and 5,500-square-miles assisting the Navy with this search.

Rear Admiral Charles Williams, the commander of Task Force 70, offered his prayers for the sailor's loss and thanked all those who participated in the search.

The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement Friday that after searching for the sailor, Lt. Steven Hopkins, assigned to the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, the operation had been halted.

For the Navy, this was the third man-overboard search this summer, and the second sailor lost at sea.

"After an extensive search. we were unable to locate our Sailor", Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander of Destroyer Squadron 15, said in a statement. An investigation into the disappearance is underway.

Japanese and USA naval forces have been holding drills in the contested South China Sea in the face of Beijing's increasing assertiveness over its maritime claims in the region.

The Chinese ministry said the marine reportedly fell into the water more than 100 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal, a rocky formation in the South China Sea claimed by China, the Philippines and Taiwan. Chinese authorities claim 90 percent of the area and have repeatedly said that the country's activities in the region are China's sovereign right.

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