US Navy Petty Officer Based in Japan Charged With Espionage

Last month, another U.S. sailor pleaded guilty to providing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with sensitive U.S. military information.
US Navy Petty Officer Based in Japan Charged With Espionage
The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is underway off the coast of Haiti on Jan. 15, 2010. (Seaman Stephen G. Hale II/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Stephen Katte

A U.S. Navy sailor based in Japan has been charged with espionage and communicating defense information to an employee of a foreign government on more than one occasion.

Bryce S. Pedicini, a chief petty officer (CPO) fire controlman aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, is suspected of handing over documents to a foreign citizen at least seven times between 2022 and 2023 in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and one final time while in Japan, according to the charge sheet.

Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia is home to central military installations and commands, including Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and Langley Air Force Base. CPO Pedicini was arrested in May 2023, soon after allegedly sharing photographs of a screen from a military computer with a foreign government employee, and has been in custody since.

CPO Pedicini was referred for a general court-martial on Jan. 18, with the U.S. Naval Surface Force as the convening authority. It has yet to be publicly revealed which foreign government CPO Pedicini was allegedly collaborating with or what files were shared. The charging sheet only says it was “relating to national defense,” and the documents were provided “with reason to believe that it would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

He also is accused of failing to report foreign contacts to his superiors, failing to report solicitation of classified information, transporting classified information, and taking a personal device into a secure room. Prosecutors also allege he failed to report a foreign contact in Yokosuka, Japan, last April and “to report solicitation of classified information by an unauthorized person.”

CPO Pedicini is originally from Tennessee and joined the Navy in early 2008 before his service on Navy destroyers in mid-2009, his biography states. He reported for duty aboard the Higgins in April 2023 and was promoted to chief petty officer on Aug. 22, 2023.

2 Other Sailors Caught Spying

Last month, a former U.S. Navy sailor was sentenced to 27 months in prison for providing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with sensitive U.S. military information in exchange for bribes.

Wenheng Zhao pleaded guilty last October to passing sensitive military information to CCP intelligence agents while working at a naval base in California. He had access to restricted military facilities and secretly gathered details on the U.S. Navy’s operational security and critical infrastructures.

The DOJ also said Zhao admitted to passing on “plans for a large-scale maritime training exercise plans in the Pacific theater, operational orders and electrical diagrams and blueprints” for the U.S. radar system in Okinawa, Japan. He was arrested last August alongside another sailor, Jinchao Wei, who was accused of conspiring to send defense information to a CCP agent.

Lawmakers have been sounding the alarm over the CCP’s intelligence activities in recent years. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) reportedly has extensive operations in the United States and has been described as “far larger” than the CIA. Instances of MSS urging people to participate in counterespionage efforts against the United States have been found on the China-based social messaging app WeChat. The agency’s call to popularize anti-spying work among civilians follows an expansion of the CCP’s counterespionage law that took effect in July 2023.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, said last year that many Americans lack awareness about the presence of the CCP agency on home soil.