US ends search for missing sailor in South China Sea
Tokyo, Japan - US naval forces have suspended their search for an American sailor who went missing during a joint drill in the South China Sea with Japan on Tuesday.
“After more than three days of continuous search efforts, the US Navy suspended operations to locate a sailor assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem on Friday,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The missing sailor was identified as Lt Steven D Hopkins, a Texas native, according to the US 7th Fleet.
On Thursday, China said it helped the US search for the sailor, a rare cooperative gesture in the disputed waters.
The US, Japan and China ‘spent 79 hours in a comprehensive search that covered roughly 25,900sq km’, the US 7th Fleet said.
The incident comes just weeks after seven American sailors were killed when their Navy destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship in a busy shipping channel off Japan’s coast. The seamen were found by divers in flooded sleeping berths a day after the collision tore a huge gash in the side of the USS Fitzgerald.
Japanese and US 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.