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US sailor who spied for China sentenced to 27 months

A US Navy petty officer who pleaded guilty to providing sensitive military information to a Chinese intelligence officer was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Monday, the US Justice Department said. Wenheng Zhao, 26, and another US sailor, Jinchao Wei, were arrested in August on suspicion of spying for China. Zhao pleaded guilty in a federal court in California in October to charges of conspiring with a foreign intelligence officer and accepting a bribe. He was sentenced on Monday to 27 months in prison and a $5,500 fine. According to US officials, Zhao, who was stationed at a naval base north of Los Angeles, received nearly $15,000 from the Chinese intelligence officer between August 2021 and May 2023. In exchange, he handed over sensitive information regarding US Navy operational security, exercises and critical infrastructure. Zhao specifically provided information about a large-scale maritime training exercise in the Pacific and electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system located in Okinawa, Japan. “Mr. Zhao betrayed his solemn oath to defend his country and endangered those who serve in the US military,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to combatting the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine our nation’s security and holding accountable those who violate our laws as part of those efforts.” Wei, who served on the amphibious assault ship the USS Essex, is accused of handing over to China dozens of documents, photos and videos detailing the operation of ships and their systems.

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