The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said Tuesday that it is expanding its search for a missing sailor from the destroyer USS Stethem. The servicemember was reported overboard at about 0900 hours on Tuesday; the Navy has not yet released the individual’s name.
The assets involved in the search include the USS Stethem; the Military Sealift Command fleet auxiliary USNS Amelia Earhart and offshore fuel transfer ship USNS Vice Admiral K. R. Wheeler; a U.S. Navy P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft; the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Izumo and JS Sazanami; and the Izumo’s helicopters.
Multiple searches on board the Stethem did not locate the crewmember. In June, an unsuccessful man-overboard search for a missing sailor from the USS Shiloh proved unnecessary when the crewmember emerged from a mechanical space; the sailor, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Peter Mims, has been charged with dereliction of duty and abandoning his watch. A spokesman for the 7th Fleet told Navy Times that Mims admitted that his disappearance had been intentional and that he had taken “steps to try to avoid being found.”
The Stethem recently made headlines when she transited within 12 nm of Triton Island in the Paracels, a Chinese-occupied land feature in the South China Sea. Triton is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
China's foreign ministry protested the action as a "serious political and military provocation," and the Global Times reported that the PLA Navy dispatched two frigates to "drive away the U.S. ship."
"The US deliberately did it and refused to correct its mistake by sending a warship into China's territorial waters again. The action has seriously harmed the strategic mutual trust between China and the US and the political environment for the development of Sino-US military ties, and damaged regional peace and stability," said Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian.