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US Navy to sack Seventh Fleet commander

TOKYO (AP) — The commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet will be removed after a series of warship accidents in the Pacific this year, two U.S. officials said Wednesday.

One official said that Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was being removed because of the leadership’s loss of confidence in his ability to command. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the decision.

The move follows four Navy accidents in the Pacific since late January, including two that left sailors dead and missing.

“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Pacific Fleet commander Adm.

Scott Swift said late Tuesday. The Navy previously announced a broad review of the Japan-based 7th Fleet’s performance in light of the incidents.

Seven sailors died in June after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off Japan. On Monday, the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker off Singapore, injuring five sailors and leaving 10 others missing.

Swift said at a news conference in Singapore, where the McCain is now docked, that Navy divers had found remains of some of the missing in a flooded compartment in the ship. He also said that Malaysian officials had found a body, but it had not been determined if it was a McCain crew member.

At least three of the 10 missing sailors have been identified by family.

The decision to remove Aucoin was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. He assumed command of the 7th Fleet in September 2015. The Navy fleet is based in Yokosuka, Japan.