A US Navy sailor, Jinchao Wei, suspected of leaking sensitive ship information to the Chinese government was refused bail in San Diego federal court on Tuesday.
According to prosecutors, Wei, 22 and born in China, entered into a deal with a Chinese military intelligence officer in February 2021 to reveal “documents, sketches, plans, notes, and information” in exchange for money.
The mother of the accused, who lives in Wisconsin, is alleged to have known about the arrangement and even urged her son to keep up cooperating with the Chinese government as it could lead to a job in the future.
Wei, an enlisted machinist mate, is said to have been made between $10,000 and $15,000 from the betrayal, which corresponds to 20% of his annual Navy salary. He now faces four charges including transmitting defense information to aid a foreign government, exporting defense articles without a license, and two counts of conspiracy. If found guilty, Wei could serve up to a lifetime in prison.
“Wei provided [the Chinese officer] with information regarding the defense and weapon capabilities of US Navy ships, potential vulnerabilities of these ships, and information related to ship movement,” Assistant US Attorney Fred Sheppard explained in the Tuesday detention hearing.
The case has come at a critical period in American-China ties, with the Pentagon identifying the Asian nation as America’s” foremost adversary” in US defense strategy in 2021.
John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, refused to make any remarks on the particular instance as it is “under DOD’s jurisdiction” but he said that the Biden government is taking it “very seriously.”
“We all have to treat [this] with the appropriate level of sobriety and do what we can to not only hold people appropriately accountable when they have been proven guilty of that kind of an offense but also to make sure that we take appropriate precautions and additional safeguards to protect that information,” Kirby stated.
In similar news, equally serious accusations were thrown at Wenheng Zhao, aged 26, who was recently indicted for conspiring to export information, photos, and video regarding Navy exercises, operations, and facilities to China for pay. Zhao was allegedly paid approximately $15,000 by the authorities for details such as the place and time of a massive US military exercise helmed in the Western Pacific.
The two realities, considered to be heinous offenses by the US state, highlight to what lengths the two countries are driven to outwit the other for an advantage.