Two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested on charges of espionage involving alleged ties to China, in a major security breach for the U.S. military.
“These individuals stand accused of violating the commitments they made to protect the United States and betraying the public trust, to the benefit of the [People’s Republic of China] government,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a news release.
The sailors, Jinchao Wei and Zhao Qian, were arrested in separate incidents in California. Wei, a 22-year-old sailor assigned to the USS Essex, was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of conspiracy to send national defense information to Chinese officials. Qian, a 23-year-old sailor assigned to Naval Base Ventura County, was arrested on a charge of conspiracy and receipt of a bribe from a Chinese official.
According to federal prosecutors, Wei contacted a Chinese government intelligence officer in February 2022 and provided the officer with photographs and videos of the ship he served on. He also disclosed technical and mechanical manuals as well as details about the number and training of Marines during an upcoming exercise.
Qian, on the other hand, is accused of accepting a bribe from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for providing information about U.S. Navy operations. The information included details about the number and location of U.S. ships in the Pacific Ocean.
“When a soldier or sailor chooses cash over country, and hands over national defense information in an ultimate act of betrayal, the United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California, said.
“By sending this sensitive military information to an intelligence officer employed by a hostile foreign state, the defendant betrayed his sacred oath to protect our country and uphold the Constitution,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “Unlike the vast majority of U.S. Navy personnel who serve the nation with honor, distinction and courage, Mr. Zhao chose to corruptly sell out his colleagues and his country.”
Zhao faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said during a Thursday press briefing reported by Fox News that the threat from China “stands apart” on the world stage to the national security of the U.S.
“China is unrivaled in the audacity and the range of its malign efforts to subvert our laws,” Olsen said Thursday.
Two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested on charges related to allegedly spying for China, according to federal prosecutors. https://t.co/0popQJuhwY
— ABC News (@ABC) August 3, 2023