Two U.S. Navy sailors arrested for sharing confidential information with China

"These individuals stand accused of violating the commitments they made to protect the United States and betraying the public trust."

Federal officials said Thursday that two Navy sailors were arrested and charged with giving China confidential military information about war exercises, naval operations and other details.

Justice Department officials revealed that the two sailors are being charged with similar offenses but are being treated as separate cases. It is still unclear whether the same Chinese intelligence officer paid or dissuaded both sailors.

“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 (PRC) government,” the DOJ revealed in a statement.

Jinchao Wei, one of the arrested sailors, is 22 years old and was born in China but became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was assigned to Naval Base San Diego to work as a machinist’s mate on the USS Essex. Wei had access to confidential information about the ship’s weapons, propulsion and other systems.

The young man is now charged with conspiracy for sending national defense information to Chinese officials. “He is charged with conspiring with a PRC intelligence officer to collect and transmit sensitive military information about naval operations,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen revealed.

The other defendant is Wenhen Zhao, a 26-year-old non-commissioned officer working at the Ventura County Naval Base in Port Hueneme. Zhao is accused of conspiring to collect bribes from a Chinese official in exchange for military information about electrical systems, among others.

“The defendant faces charges for espionage and for violating our export control laws, for collecting and transmitting sensitive national defense information at the direction of a PRC intelligence officer,” Olsen commented.

Countering the threat

U.S. Attorney Grossman commented that while China appears to be unrivaled in audacity, the United States will use every tool necessary to “counter the threat and deter China and those who have violated the rule of law and threaten our national security.”