20 C
Los Angeles
Saturday, April 20, 2024

US Navy Sailors Arrested for Espionage

The US Navy has a new reason to be concerned about the threat from China: two serving members of the force have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing. The Department of Justice said Thursday that the men were caught trying to sell military secrets to Beijing, including details on wartime exercises and naval operations and critical technical information. The two sailors, both based in California, were arrested Wednesday. Jinchao Wei, 22, and Wenheng Zhao, 26, are accused of sharing national defense information with Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for cash.

Wei, a machinist’s mate aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex stationed in San Diego, is accused of providing a Chinese intelligence officer with photographs and videos, and manuals that contained technical data about the Navy vessels he served on, as well as information about the weapons systems and aircraft aboard the ships. He was allegedly paid thousands of dollars in the scheme, which took place over a year. Prosecutors say Wei made contact with the Chinese officer while he was becoming a naturalized American citizen, and the officer even congratulated him on his success.

According to the indictment, Wei provided more than 50 manuals and blueprints that included technical and mechanical information about Navy ships, as well as the locations of those ships. The indictment also states that he discussed the nature of some of the weapons on the ships, including the number and types of helicopters that can be carried aboard. Wei, accused of breaching the US Espionage Act, reportedly told his Chinese contact that the USS Essex could carry MV-22 Ospreys.

A Navy spokesman said the alleged espionage case is “a reminder of the relentless, aggressive efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine our democracy and threaten those who defend it.” IN RECENT YEARS, the US has seen several high-profile cases involving individuals from the Pentagon or military attempting to pass on information to the Chinese government for cash.

Zhao, who also worked at the Naval Base Ventura County, was allegedly contacted in 2021 by a Chinese intelligence officer who posed as a maritime economic researcher and offered him money to share sensitive information about the Navy. The indictment states that he passed the agent photos and videos of the USS Essex, as well as electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system at a military base in Japan. He also revealed non-public details about a vast US military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region and was paid $14,866. If convicted, Zhao could face up to 20 years in prison. Both Wei and Zhao are being held in California on federal espionage charges. They will appear in court next month in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Trending Now:

Recommended for "The Publishers Weekly"

Most Popular Articles