U.S. ends search for sailor missing during exercise in South China Sea

The sailor went missing during a joint US-Japanese drill in the South China SeaMore

The search for a missing sailor on the USS Stethem has been suspended. At the time the ship was conducting routine operations 140 miles west of Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

China's Defence Ministry said in a statement that its Liuzhou guided-missile frigate was in nearby waters conducting war-readiness duties, and "on the basis of humanitarian spirit, and according to the code for unplanned encounters at sea, carried out operational coordination with the US side".

The three navies spent a total of 79 hours in the "comprehensive" search, which covered roughly 25,900 sq.km (10,000 sq. miles), the 7th Fleet said in the statement.

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An investigation is now underway. Eastern time, officials from 7th Fleet announced.

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

"After an extensive search, with help from the JMSDF and PLA (N), we were unable to locate our Sailor", said Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15.

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"I appreciate greatly the dedication and professionalism shown by all who participated in the search efforts", Williams said. Triton is part of the Paracel chain claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, a stance contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A member of Chinese Navy stands watch as the guided missile destroyer USS Stethem arrives at the Shanghai International Passenger Quay for a scheduled port visit in Shanghai, China.

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The move drew a sharp rebuke from the Chinese, who called the operation "provocative" and said such actions "violate China's sovereignty and threaten China's security".

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