US ends search for miss­ing sailor in South China Sea

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - AFP

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.

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