The FBI arrested two US Navy service members on Wednesday, August 2, and charged them with espionage. America is under attack from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from within. From spy balloons to setting up surveillance shops in Cuba to agents trespassing on US military installations to gain intelligence, Beijing is indefatigable in attempting to carry its cold war to America.
Two separate indictments were handed down to US sailors. “Today we are announcing charges in the Central and Southern Districts of California against two active duty members of the United States Navy. Due to the alleged crimes committed by these defendants, sensitive military information ended up in the hands of the People’s Republic of China,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen told a press conference in San Diego. “The charges demonstrate the PRC’s determination to obtain information that is critical to our national defense by any means.”
Sailors Identified Who Spied for China
According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, the sailors arrested were Petty Officer (PO) Jinchao Wei, known as Patrick Wei, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Essex out of San Diego, and Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, called Thomas Zhao, who worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. Both men are accused of transmitting sensitive military information to agents of the PRC. PO Wei is charged with espionage, and according to the indictment:
“In February 2022, Wei began communicating with an intelligence officer from the People’s Republic of China, who requested that Wei provide information about the USS Essex and other Navy ships. Specifically, the Chinese officer tasked Wei with passing him photos, videos, and documents concerning US Navy ships and their systems…Wei sent the intelligence officer approximately 30 technical and mechanical manuals. These manuals contained export control warnings and detailed the operations of multiple systems aboard the Essex and similar ships, including power, steering, aircraft, and deck elevators, as well as damage and casualty controls.”
The indictment indicates Wei was paid $5,000 for selling out his country. Charges against Wei allege he continued his spying activities at the request of his CCP hander into 2023. The information Wei passed included “blueprints, especially those related to modifications to the flight deck. Wei provided information related to the repairs the Essex was undergoing, as well as other mechanical problems with similar vessels,” the charges reveal. If convicted of the most serious of the four counts, Wei faces a maximum of life in prison for Conspiracy to Communicate, Deliver, or Transmit Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government.
China Corrupts Second US Sailor
The second US Navy sailor charged with selling sensitive military information is PO Thomas Zhao. The 26-year-old sailor began “surreptitiously recording, and then transmitting to the (Chinese) intelligence officer, US military information, photographs, and videos,” a DOJ press release explained. Additionally, the indictment of Zhao described the sailor as having provided his CCP handler:
“…(O)perational plans for a large-scale US 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. The indictment further alleges that in exchange for bribes, Zhao also photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system stationed on a US military base in Okinawa, Japan.”
Providing insight to CCP operatives into how the US will operate in an Indo-Pacific crisis is particularly troubling. When an enemy knows how our military thinks and how it trains with exercises to respond in combat situations that information renders US forces predictable and at serious risk. Zhao received about $15,000 for betraying his country and is looking at 20 years in federal prison if convicted.
The two sailors’ criminal espionage cases indicate the aggressive soft violence the Chinese use persistently to attack the US. One of the most effective approaches the PRC has hurt America is to find ways to defeat US national security systems. Having spies in our military is very troubling. “As today’s charges reflect, China among all such nations (hostile nation states) stands apart in terms of the threat its government poses to the United States,” Assistant AG Olsen said. “China is unrivaled in the audacity and maligned efforts to subvert our laws.” No corner of life in the US is not a target for the Chinese.
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