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The U.S. Navy has ended a three-day search for a sailor who is believed to have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.

Ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and People's Liberation Army (Navy) also participated in the search, demonstrating the common bond shared by all mariners to render assistance at sea.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Stetham reported a man overboard at around 9 a.m. local time on August 1.

The ship was about 140 miles west of Subic Bay, Philippines, at the time when Hopkins' disappearance was noticed.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, the USS Stethem missile destroyer trespassed Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha/Paracel Islands in South China Sea.

The Navy is now investigating the incident.

The search for Hopkins, who went missing during a joint U.S.

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

While the United States has no territorial claims in the area, it has engaged in "freedom of navigation" missions to challenge China's claims.

Two Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy frigates joined the US vessels and the MSDF destroyer Sazanami and helicopters from the Izumo, its largest warship, in the search operations.

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. U.S. and Japanese ships are now assisting in the search-and-rescue effort. Chinese authorities claim 90 percent of the area and have repeatedly said that the country's activities in the region are China's sovereign right.


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