Two US Navy sailors are accused of spying for China

Two US Navy sailors have been apprehended in California on suspicion of providing vital military intelligence to China.

The 22-year-old naturalized US citizen Jinchao Wei is charged with plotting to give a Chinese agent information about national defense.

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, was detained on suspicion of taking payment for private images and recordings.

It is unknown if the two contacts were made by the same Chinese operative.

On Wednesday, both men were detained in California, Mr. Wei was en route to the Naval Base San Diego for work.

The charges were revealed by the prosecution on Thursday in San Diego at a press conference.

They said that Mr. Wei, who worked as a machinist’s mate on the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, had access to critical information concerning the ship since he held a security clearance.

While he was applying to become a US citizen in February 2022, he was allegedly approached by a Chinese agent.

According to the indictment, the agent paid Mr. Wei, also known as Patrick Wei, thousands of dollars for images, videos, technical manuals, and ship plans.

According to representatives of the Justice Department, Mr. Wei also offered the agent information about US Marines who were taking part in a maritime training exercise.

We must be prepared to take action when a soldier or sailor chooses money above country and divulges sensitive information about national defense, according to US Attorney Randy Grossman.

China has denied having any knowledge of the alleged action.

A spokeswoman for China’s embassy in Washington, as saying: “The US government and media have routinely exaggerated examples of ‘espionage’ relating to China.

He continued, “China firmly rejects the US side’s baseless slander and smearing of China.

Near Los Angeles, Mr. Zhao had a job at the Naval Base Ventura County. He allegedly came into contact with a Chinese agent in 2021 who pretended to be a researcher looking for data for investment decisions.

According to prosecutors, the agent paid Mr. Zhao approximately $15,000 (£11,800) for pictures, films, and schematics for a radar system installed on a US military facility in Okinawa, Japan.

Mr. Wei faces a possible sentence of life in jail if found guilty, but Mr. Zhao faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Separate cases were brought against the two guys.

Authorities described the alleged spying as a part of a coordinated Chinese operation to acquire US military secrets.

Although American authorities later said it did not gather any vital information, a Chinese surveillance balloon that drifted over the United States earlier this year strained relations between the two nations.

According to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, “The Department of Justice will continue to use every weapon in our arsenal to counter threats from China and to deter those who aid them in breaking our laws and endangering our national security.”

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