China has been spying from Cuba since at least 2019, White House says

‘The PRC conducted an upgrade of its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019,’ the White House said

Maroosha Muzaffar
Sunday 11 June 2023 07:50 BST
<p>File. China’s president Xi Jinping </p>

File. China’s president Xi Jinping

China has been using Cuba as a spy base since at least 2019, the White House confirmed on Saturday.

It was reported last week that Cuba and China had reached an agreement in principle to build a spy base on the island. The Wall Street Journal, quoting senior US officials familiar with the matter, reported that China planned on paying Cuba billions of dollars in exchange.

Initially, the White House said that the report was inaccurate. However, on Saturday, it said: “This is an ongoing issue and not a new development.” It claimed though that “the arrangement as characterised in the reporting does not comport with our understanding.”

The statement said that Joe Biden upon joining office in January 2021 was briefed on China’s efforts to expand its global military and intelligence presence. “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.”

It said the Chinese government “will keep trying to enhance its presence in Cuba, and we will keep working to disrupt it”. The statement added: “We think the PRC isn’t quite where they had hoped to be.”

It also claimed that the US has taken diplomatic and other steps to “slow down” the Chinese government in Cuba.

The WSJ had earlier reported that an electronic eavesdropping station on the island would allow Beijing to gather electronic communications from the southeastern United States, home to many US military bases, as well as monitor ship traffic.

China, meanwhile, accused the US of “spreading rumours and slander” and called the US “the most powerful hacker empire in the world”.

“As we all know, spreading rumours and slander is a common tactic of the United States,” Wang Wenbin, spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“The United States is also the most powerful hacker empire in the world, and also veritably a major monitoring nation.”

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