US Navy Officer Jailed for Aiding China

( – A sailor in the U.S. Navy has been sentenced to 27 months in prison after he was found guilty of sharing military blueprints and other sensitive information with an intelligence officer working for the Chinese government.

Wenheng Zhao, a 26-year-old petty officer, received as much as $15,000 in bribes from a Chinese intelligence operative, and pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Officials from the U.S. military say from 2021 to 2023, Zhao provided his handler with various sensitive data, including information on large-scale drills the U.S. Navy conducted in the Indo-Pacific region. He also supplied China with the electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system used in the U.S.’ base in Okinawa, Japan.

That Zhao compromised the security of the U.S. base in Okinawa is particularly significant, as the base is a key location for U.S. operations to shore up alliances to help counter China’s growing influence and military might in the region.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Zhao worked out of the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. He had security clearance and intentionally gained entry into restricted naval and military facilities in order to “collect and record information.” Authorities also say that Zhao employed “sophisticated encrypted communication methods” in the process of passing along the information he collected to his Chinese handler, which included methods of destroying evidence that tied him to the Chinese spy.

Zhao obtained his citizenship through naturalization. He immigrated to the U.S. in 2009 and became a U.S. citizen in 2012. He then enlisted in the Navy in 2017.

It is unclear if Zhao’s case is directly related to that of another naturalized U.S. citizen from China, 22-year-old Jinchao Wei, who was also a member of the U.S. Navy who also stands accused of sending sensitive military information to China. Wei allegedly sent his Chinese intelligence handler several documents, videos, and photos that provided details on how U.S. ships operate.

The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. has disavowed any knowledge of the incident.

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