China has been conducting spying activities from Cuba for a considerable amount of time. It has upgraded its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba as recently as 2019. This was disclosed by an official from the Biden administration on Saturday. The revelation came after a report was published about a new spying operation that was allegedly underway on the island.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China had established a secret deal with Cuba to create an electronic eavesdropping station on the island, which is located approximately 100 miles away from Florida. However, both the Cuban and US governments raised doubts about the report.
The anonymous Biden administration official stated that the media’s representation of the situation “does not comport with our understanding.” However, the official did not elaborate on how the report was incorrect or address whether there were efforts by China to build a new eavesdropping facility in Cuba.
The official also indicated that the issue predated Joe Biden’s presidency and that China had been making efforts to improve its intelligence collection infrastructure worldwide. “This is an ongoing issue, and not a new development,” the official said. “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) conducted an upgrade of its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019. This is well-documented in the intelligence record.”
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio dismissed the Journal’s report as “totally mendacious” and referred to it as a fabrication by the US government to justify its decades-old economic embargo against the island. Fernandez de Cossio also stated that Cuba rejects all foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The US has been aware of China’s basing effort in Cuba since the previous administration of Donald Trump. Attempts were made to address the challenge, but “we were not making enough progress and needed a more direct approach,” the Biden administration official said.
US diplomats have engaged governments that were considering hosting Chinese bases and have exchanged information with them. The official noted that the US’s diplomatic efforts have slowed China down. “Our experts assess that our diplomatic efforts have slowed the PRC down,” the official said. “We think the PRC isn’t quite where they had hoped to be.”
The alleged Chinese spying from Cuba comes at a time when the US and Beijing are taking steps to ease tensions. This includes a trip to China that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning for June 18th. Blinken had earlier cancelled the visit following the suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon, which crossed the United States. The US military shot it down off the East Coast in February.
China’s embassy in Washington pointed to a statement by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Friday who accused the US of “spreading rumors and slander” with talk of a Cuba spy station, and of being “the most powerful hacker empire in the world.”
China has been conducting spying activities from Cuba for a long time, and its intelligence collection facilities were upgraded in 2019, according to an anonymous Biden administration official. Although the report that China had reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island was doubted by both the Cuban and US governments, the US has been aware of China’s basing effort in Cuba for some time. Efforts were made by the previous administration to address the challenge, but the Biden administration believes that a more direct approach is necessary.