Two US Sailors Arrested, Accused of Spying for China

What You Need to Know

The United States Justice Department has announced that two American sailors have been arrested for allegedly “for transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

United States v. Jinchao Wei, Southern District of California

Navy sailor Jinchao We was arrested and charged with “conspiracy to send national defense information to an intelligence officer working for the People’s Republic of China.”

Wei, a machinist’s mate stationed at Naval Base San Diego aboard the Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) USS Essex, allegedly began communicating with a Chinese intelligence officer in February 2022. According to the Justice Department, the intelligence officer “requested that Wei provide information about the U.S.S. Essex and other Navy ships. Specifically, the Chinese intelligence officer tasked Wei with passing him photos, videos and documents concerning U.S. Navy ships and their systems.”

Between March 2022 to present, Wei “sent photographs and videos of the Essex, disclosed the locations of various Navy ships and described defensive weapons of the Essex.” Likewise, Wei handed over dozens of technical documents and manuals that contained information on export control warnings, power, steering, aircraft and deck elevators, damage and casualty controls, berthing quarters locations, weapons systems, and upgrades aboard the Essex and similar ships. In exchange, Wei was paid thousands of dollars.

United States v. Wenheng Zhao, Central District of California

Navy sailor Wenheng Zhao was arrested and charged with espionage after “receiving bribes in exchange for transmitting sensitive U.S. military information to an individual posing as a maritime economic researcher, but who was actually an intelligence officer from the PRC.” Zhao

Zhao, who was stationed at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, allegedly “sent the Chinese military officer non-public and controlled operational plans for a large-scale U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region, which detailed the specific location and timing of Naval force movements, amphibious landings, maritime operations and logistics support.”

Likewise, Zhao allegedly “photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system stationed on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.”

According to the Justice Department, Zhao was given nearly $15,000 for his espionage activities.

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