China helps search for missing US Navy sailor

USS Stethem

SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 13, 2017) Ensign Terence Viernes, left, communicates the location of surface contacts to the officer of the deck aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) during a transit towards Singapore. Stethem is on patrol supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Harper)

BEIJING — China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the U.S. Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.

The ministry said in a statement Thursday that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the U.S. in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”

The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. Tuesday. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.

China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the U.S. in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.

The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the U.S. considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.

China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Listen Live