China's spy agency has arrested an employee of a Chinese defence firm for supplying "core information" to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), reports said.
The announcement was made by the Ministry of State Security (MSS), which is Beijing’s top intelligence and counter-intelligence agency. MSS officials identified the 52-year-old man as "Zeng" who worked for an arms supplier with access to confidential information.
Zeng came into contact with the CIA when he was sent to Italy by his unit for studies, South China Morning Post quoted MSS statement.
Interestingly, Chinese officials have named the CIA this time unlike earlier where it would just use terms like "foreign agent" and "certain countries". The MSS report said Zeng was befriended by "Seth", an official of the US embassy in Italy. Seth took the initiative to get close to Zeng and the duo formed a close bond through activities such as dinner parties, outings, and watching operas.
The report added that Zeng gradually fell for Western values and became psychologically dependent on him. Seth went on to reveal his identity as a member of the CIA Rome station and promised a huge amount to Zeng as well as help his family emigrate to the US, the MSS said.
The Chinese signed a pact with the CIA after underdoing its training process. He returned home soon and continued to secretly meet CIA personnel many times, "providing a large amount of China’s core information and collecting espionage fees", it said.
The ministry said Zeng has been arrested after a proper investigation and has been transferred to prosecutors for indictment.
The arrest comes just days after the US arrested two Navy sailors for sending sensitive US military information to Chinese intelligence officers. According to US officials, Jinchao Wei, a machinist’s mate on the USS Essex, allegedly entered into a "handler/asset" relationship with a Chinese intelligence officer, sending him photos and videos of the Essex and other Navy ships as well as dozens of technical and mechanical manuals relating to the ships’ layouts and weapons systems.
Another sailor, petty officer Wenheng Zhao, provided sensitive US military information, including operational plans for a major military exercise in the Indo-Pacific, to a person posing as a maritime economic researcher. That person was actually a Chinese intelligence officer.
CIA head William Burns had also recently claimed that the US made progress and was working hard over recent to develop the spy network.