China has been operating an intelligence unit in Cuba for several years and upgraded it in 2019 as part of a broader global effort by Beijing to enhance its intelligence-gathering capabilities, according to a senior US White House official.
The statement was made on Saturday, following a recent report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) claiming that China had struck a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island, located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the southern US state of Florida. The WSJ report suggested that China intended to provide billions of dollars to financially struggling Cuba as part of the agreement.
Both the US and Cuban governments have expressed skepticism about the WSJ report. The anonymous White House official stated that the characterization provided by the WSJ did not align with their understanding of the situation. However, the official did not specify how the report was inaccurate or provide detailed information about whether China was indeed attempting to construct a new eavesdropping facility in Cuba.
The official emphasized that the issue predates the current administration of US President Joe Biden, highlighting that China had been working to bolster its intelligence collection infrastructure worldwide. They described it as an ongoing issue and not a recent development, adding that China had upgraded its intelligence facilities in Cuba in 2019, which is well-documented in intelligence records.
When asked for comment, a representative from China’s embassy in Washington, DC referred to a statement made by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Friday. The spokesperson accused the US of spreading rumors and engaging in slanderous behavior regarding the Cuba spy station allegations, while also accusing the US of being the most powerful hacking empire in the world.
In response to the allegations, the Cuban government denounced the situation, stating that it was based on unfounded speculation aimed at causing damage and alarm. Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio criticized certain media outlets for spreading information without following proper communication protocols or providing evidence to support their claims. Cuba has consistently rejected any foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The attention surrounding alleged Chinese spying from Cuba comes at a time when Washington and Beijing are taking tentative steps to ease tensions, which escalated when a suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon crossed over US territory and was subsequently shot down by the US military off the East Coast in February.
These developments include a planned trip to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, scheduled for June 18. The visit had been initially canceled by Blinken following the spy balloon incident. The US official stated that although the Trump administration was aware of China’s basing efforts in Cuba and made some attempts to address the issue, they believed more progress was necessary and adopted a more direct approach.
The official mentioned that US diplomats had engaged with governments that were considering hosting Chinese bases and had exchanged information with them. They claimed that their diplomatic efforts had slowed down China’s progress, stating that China had not achieved the level of advancement they had hoped for.