A US defense contractor in Hawaii has been arrested on charges of passing national defense secrets, including classified information about nuclear weapons, to a Chinese woman with whom he was romantically involved, authorities said on Monday.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former US Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at US Pacific Command in Oahu was arrested on Friday and made his first appearance in federal court on Monday, the US Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii said in a news release.
He is charged with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to national defense. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about the case at a daily news briefing in Beijing, said he did "not understand the relevant situation", and declined further comment.
China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, have long engaged in spying against each other.
Last year China arrested a Chinese state security official on suspicion of spying for the United States, sources said, a case both countries had kept quiet for several months as they strove to prevent a fresh crisis in relations.
That incident ranked as the most serious Sino-US spying incident to be made public since 1985 when Yu Qiangsheng, an intelligence official, defected to the United States.
Yu told the Americans that a retired CIA analyst had been spying for China. The analyst killed himself in 1986 in a US prison cell, days before he was due to be sentenced to a lengthy jail term.