Two sailors in the US Navy are accused of spying for China

Two sailors from the US Navy have been arrested in California on charges that they gave secret military information to China.

Jinchao Wei, who was born in China and became an American citizen at age 22, is accused of plotting to give knowledge about national defense to a Chinese agent.

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, who is 26 years old, was arrested on charges that he took money for photos and videos that showed sensitive things.

It is not clear if the two were called by the same Chinese agent.

On Wednesday, both men were arrested in California. Mr. Wei was on his way to work at Naval Base San Diego when he was stopped.

On Thursday, the charges were made public at a news conference in San Diego.

They said that Mr. Wei, who worked as a machinist’s mate on the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, had a security clearance and could see sensitive details about the ship.

He was supposedly approached by a Chinese spy in February 2022, when he was in the process of becoming a US citizen.

The indictment said that the agent paid Mr. Wei, who is also known as Patrick Wei, thousands of dollars for photos, movies, technical manuals, and plans of the ship.

Officials from the Justice Department said that Mr. Wei also gave the spy information about US Marines who were training at sea.

US Attorney Randy Grossman said, “We have to be ready to act when a soldier or sailor puts money over his or her country and hands over national defense information as the ultimate act of betrayal.”

So far, China has said that it knows nothing about the alleged behavior.

The Wall Street Journal reported Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington, as saying, “The US government and media have often blown up cases of ‘espionage’ involving China.

“China is strongly against the US side’s false accusations and slander against China,” he said.

Mr. Zhao, whose name is also Thomas Zhao, used to work at Naval Base Ventura County, which is near Los Angeles. In 2021, a Chinese agent posing as a researcher looking for information to help with investment choices is said to have talked to him.

Authorities say the spy paid Mr. Zhao almost $15,000 (£11,800) for photos, videos, diagrams, and blueprints of a radar system on a US military base in Okinawa, Japan.

If Mr. Wei is found guilty, he could go to prison for 20 years to life, while Mr. Zhao could go to prison for up to 20 years.

Each man was charged in a different case.

Authorities said that the suspected spying was part of a plan by China to find out US military secrets.

When a Chinese spy balloon flew over the U.S. earlier this year, it caused tension between the two countries, even though U.S. officials later said the balloon did not collect any secret information.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said, “The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool we have to stop threats from China and stop those who help China break our laws and threaten our national security.”

It wasn’t clear if either Mr. Wei or Mr. Zhao had hired lawyers who could speak on their behalf.

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