Reports: Chinese intel official charged with spying for the US

A senior Chinese intelligence official has been arrested on charges he was passing on sensitive information to U.S. intelligence agencies, according to recent news reports.

The accused official, who reportedly held the rank of vice minister in China's State Security ministry, handed over "political, economic and strategic intelligence" to the United States for several years, according to reports by Reuters. 

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The State Security ministry is the Beijing's equivalent to the CIA or the United Kingdom's MI6, responsible for coordinating and conducting all of China's foreign and domestic espionage operations. 

Chinese authorities arrested the official sometime between January and March, according to reports. The official was persuaded to inform for the CIA after U.S. intelligence agents discovered he was having an extramarital affair, according to reports. 

CIA then used that information, as well as thousands of dollars in payment, to convince the official to leak sensitive details on current intelligence, including the names of covert Chinese agents working in the United States and elsewhere. 

"The destruction has been massive," a source told Reuters on Friday regarding the impact of the official's cooperation with the United States. 

On Thursday, Russia sentenced a former military officer to 12 years in prison for working with U.S. intelligence. 

Retired Col. Vladimir Lazar served with the General Staff of the Russian armed forces before his retirement in early 2000. 

Lazar was convicted of taking more than 7,000 images of classified maps of Russia, smuggling them to neighboring Belarus and leaking them to American intelligence agents stationed there. 

The FSB said the maps could be used for planning military operations against Russia. 

A CIA spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment by The Hill regarding the details of the Chinese incident or how the arrest will impact future U.S. counterintelligence efforts against Beijing and its allies.

If true, the incident could be the biggest breach of Chinese intelligence operations to date. Recently, the White House is taking an increasingly harder line, militarily and diplomatically, against the Asian superpower. 

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is conducting a multi-nation diplomatic mission through the Pacific region as part of the Pentagon's efforts to begin implementing the White House's new national security strategy. 

President Obama announced the plan in February, shifting the majority of America's military might from the Middle East to the Pacific at the same time China is increasing military aggressiveness in the region.

In March, the United States along with the European Union and Japan filed a challenge with the World Trade Organization against China’s efforts to block exports of “rare-earth materials” used to make everything from cellphones to flat-screen televisions. 

The United States argues that the export restrictions by Beijing gives China an unfair advantage in the global marketplace. More than 90 percent of all rare-earth materials are mined in China. 

Most recently, American officials at the U.S. embassy in Beijing protected activist Chen Guangcheng, who after weeks of intense negotiations was then allowed to come to the United States.

That same month, the Obama administration changed course on its long-standing policy against providing Taiwan with U.S. fighter jets, granting the Defense Department the authority to sell the fighters to Taiwan.