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BEIJING (CBSMiami/AP) — Chinese officials are helping the U.S. search for a Navy sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard 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 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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