Monday October 02, 2023

China operating spy base in Cuba for years, says US official

Despite denials from China and Cuba, existence of spy base has been confirmed, and tensions between the US and China persist

By Web Desk
June 11, 2023
President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 15. AFP/File
President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 15. AFP/File

China has been operating a spy base in Cuba since 2019 to enhance its intelligence-gathering capabilities worldwide, according to a US official from the Biden administration. 

The official revealed that the US intelligence community has long been aware of China's spying activities in Cuba and its broader efforts to establish similar operations globally. The Biden administration has been actively working to counter China's expansion of espionage operations, making progress through diplomatic channels and unspecified actions.

The existence of the Chinese spy base was confirmed after a report by The Wall Street Journal stated that China and Cuba had reached a preliminary agreement to build an electronic eavesdropping station on the island. However, both the White House and Cuban officials disputed the accuracy of the report.

US-China relations have been strained during Biden's presidency, with tensions escalating after a visit to Taiwan by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the US shooting down a Chinese spy balloon that had entered US airspace. Despite these conflicts, the White House has expressed a desire to resume high-level communications with China.

A recent anonymous official from the Biden administration clarified that China has been spying from Cuba for some time, with an upgrade of its intelligence facilities in 2019. The official refuted certain media characterisations but did not provide specific details or address the possibility of a new eavesdropping facility in Cuba.

China's embassy in Washington dismissed the allegations as US rumors, while the Cuban government labeled The Wall Street Journal report as completely false. Efforts to ease tensions between the US and China include Secretary of State Antony Blinken planning a trip to China, which was initially canceled due to the spy balloon incident.

The Biden administration official acknowledged that the previous administration was aware of China's basing efforts in Cuba but claimed that more progress was needed. The US has engaged with governments considering hosting Chinese bases and exchanged information with them to slow down China's ambitions.