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USS Stethem

A Navy sailor is missing and presumed overboard in the South China Sea

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A Navy sailor from the USS Stethem destroyer is missing in the South China Sea, U.S. Pacific Fleet confirmed to Defense News Tuesday.

Defense News reported that a search-and-rescue operation is now underway for the sailor, who was first reported missing around 9 a.m. local time that morning in the contested waters.

U.S. Pacific Fleet said that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Sazanami and the helicopter carrier Izumo were assisting in search-and-rescue efforts early Wednesday there.

The Joint Personnel Recovery Center Hawaii is also aiding search efforts, according to U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Some Twitter users on Tuesday voiced sadness about the sailor reportedly missing from the Stethem.

Defense News reported that Tuesday’s operation is the second major search-and-rescue mission in the Asia Pacific region this summer.

The first hunt in June ended following a 50-hour search off Okinawa, Japan, with the missing sailor ultimately being found to have been hiding in a ship’s engineering spaces.

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The Navy also reportedly lost a sailor earlier that month off the USS Normandy cruiser off the coast of North Carolina.

Fox News reported that the sailor who vanished Tuesday disappeared while the Stethem was roughly 140 miles west of the Philippines’ Subic Bay.

An official told Fox that the sailor in question checked in aboard the ship shortly before he was reported missing.

The Stethem reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island last month, the subject of a heated territorial dispute between China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The South China Sea and its mostly uninhabited islands are the subject of frequent regional disputes, with some experts predicting the area may be ripe for conflict between Asian nations.

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