Shocking arrests as US Navy sailors conspire with China

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A US Navy sailor is alleged to have shared information with China about the USS Essex, seen here making a port call in Australia. Reuters/File
A US Navy sailor is alleged to have shared information with China about the USS Essex, seen here making a port call in Australia. Reuters/File

Two US Navy sailors have been arrested on charges related to national security and their connections to China.  

The arrests have sparked fresh concerns over potential espionage activities between the two nations.

The first sailor, Jinchao Wei, a 22-year-old assigned to the USS Essex, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to send national defense information to Chinese officials. Federal prosecutors revealed that Wei had been in contact with a Chinese government intelligence officer, providing photographs and videos of the ship he served on, along with technical and mechanical manuals and details about upcoming military exercises involving Marines.

The second sailor, Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, faces charges of conspiracy and bribetaking. Zhao allegedly received almost $15,000 in exchange for providing sensitive US military photos and videos to a Chinese intelligence officer. Among the disclosed information were operational plans for a US military exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region, along with surreptitious recordings of other sensitive data.

US officials expressed concern that the sailors' actions led to the exposure of "sensitive military info" in the hands of the People's Republic of China. The Justice Department charged both sailors under the Espionage Act, a statute rarely used to prosecute individuals for aiding a foreign government.

During a press conference in San Diego, FBI Special Agent Stacey Moy strongly condemned China's espionage campaign, stressing that Beijing posed a significant, multigenerational threat to the United States and had ambitious strategic plans to become the world's sole superpower.

US-China relations have been fraught with tensions over various issues, including national security and trade disputes. The US government has repeatedly accused China of espionage and cyberattacks, while China has asserted that it, too, faces threats from spies.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington has yet to respond to the allegations. However, with the recent arrests and the escalating tensions between the two nations, international attention remains focused on the implications these espionage charges may have on global stability and geopolitics.