BEIJING: China said late Thursday that it helped the United States search for an American sailor who fell into the South China Sea—a rare cooperative gesture in the disputed waters. “The Chinese Liuzhou naval vessel, which performs combat preparation duties in nearby waters, carried out operational coordination with the US side in the spirit of humanitarianism and in accordance with the ‘Code for Unplanned Maritime Encounters’,” the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement. The sailor went missing Tuesday during a joint US-Japanese drill in the South China Sea. Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, the country’s navy, confirmed two of its vessels as well as helicopters have been taking part in the search. The two nations called off their routine joint operation to focus on the search, a Japanese navy spokesman told Agence France-Presse. The sailor’s name is being withheld while the search is ongoing and the exact location of the search was not disclosed.