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US Navy spy officer faces two years in jail for selling ‘sensitive information’ to China

A US Navy officer has been accused of carrying out espionage activities for China. According to news agency IANS, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said, he took bribes from Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for sensitive US military information.

Wenheng Zhao, a US Navy petty officer who hails from California state, was sentenced to 27 months in prison by a district judge on Monday. According to IANS, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Gee of the department’s National Security Division said in a statement, “Zhao betrayed his solemn oath to defend our country and endangered those who serve in the US military.”

“The Justice Department is committed to countering the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine our nation’s security and holding accountable those who violate our laws as part of those efforts,” Matthew Gee said in the statement.

Zhao pleaded guilty in October 2023 in a California federal court to one count of conspiring with a foreign intelligence officer. He has been ordered to pay a fine of $5,500.

In exchange for the bribe, the 26-year-old, who had a security clearance, handed over sensitive information regarding U.S. Navy operational security, practices, and infrastructure. He served at the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. Zhao was convicted of entering restricted military and naval installations to gather information. Zhao provided information about the large-scale operation. According to the IANS report, Zhao destroyed evidence and concealed her relationship with the intelligence officer.

The naval officer is an American citizen born in China.

“The case against Zhao is part of a larger national strategy to combat criminal efforts by countries around the world to steal our country’s sensitive information,” the US attorney for the Central District of California said, according to US news website CNN. The arrest comes amid growing concerns in the US that China is making strategic advances against it – particularly the Chinese navy – which has surpassed the size of the US Navy’s fleet.

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