Monday, June 17, 2024

Arrests Made: Two US Navy Sailors Accused of Spying for China

Two US Navy sailors stationed in California have been arrested on serious charges of providing sensitive military information to China.

The first accused, Jinchao Wei, a 22-year-old naturalized US citizen, stands accused of conspiring to transmit national defense information to a Chinese agent.

The second individual, Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, aged 26, was apprehended on charges of accepting money in exchange for sensitive photos and videos.

At this stage, it remains uncertain whether the same Chinese agent had approached both sailors.

The arrests of both Wei and Zhao took place in California on Wednesday, with Wei being apprehended while on his way to work at Naval Base San Diego.

During a press conference in San Diego on Thursday, prosecutors announced the allegations against the two sailors.
According to the accusations, Mr. Wei worked as a machinist’s mate aboard the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, and had access to secret information concerning the ship.

The Chinese agent reportedly approached Mr. Wei in February 2022, while he was still in the process of becoming a US citizen.

The agent allegedly paid Mr. Wei, also known as Patrick Wei, thousands of dollars in exchange for photographs, videos, technical manuals, and blueprints of the ship, as mentioned in the indictment.

In addition to this, Mr. Wei is said to have divulged details about US Marines who were participating in a maritime training exercise.

In response to the situation, US Attorney Randy Grossman stated, “When a soldier or sailor chooses pay over country and passes over national defense secrets in an ultimate act of betrayal,

China, however, has denied any knowledge of the alleged activities.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington, stated in response to the Wall Street Journal, “The US government and media have frequently hyped up cases of ‘espionage’ related to China. China firmly opposes the US side’s groundless slander and smear of China.”

The second accused, Mr. Zhao, who also goes by the name Thomas Zhao, served at Naval Base Ventura County near Los Angeles. In 2021, he allegedly encountered a Chinese agent posing as a researcher seeking information for investment decisions.

According to authorities, the agent paid Mr. Zhao nearly $15,000 (£11,800) in exchange for photos, videos, diagrams, and blueprints of a radar system located on a US military base in Okinawa, Japan.

If found guilty, Mr. Wei could face a sentence ranging from 20 years to life in prison, Mr. Zhao’s charges carry the possible punishment of 20 years in prison.
Both guys are facing separate charges.

Authorities have described the suspected espionage as part of a coordinated Chinese operation to steal US military secrets..

Tensions between the two countries rose earlier this year when a Chinese spy balloon flew over the United States. The balloon, however, did not acquire any critical information, according to American authorities.

“The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to counter Chinese threats and deter those who assist them in breaking our laws and threatening our national security,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.
As of now, it is unclear whether Mr. Wei or Mr. Zhao have secured legal representation to provide a comment on their behalf.

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