US Denies Claims That China Struck Deal With Cuba to Build Spy Base

US Denies Claims That China Struck Deal With Cuba to Build Spy Base
U.S. Department of Defense press secretary Gen. Patrick S. Ryder speaks at a press conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on April 13, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

The United States on Thursday denied a report that China had struck an agreement with Cuba to build an electronic surveillance facility on the island, which is some 100 miles from Florida and home to U.S. military installations.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Defense Department was "not aware of China and Cuba developing any type of spy stations separately" but that it will continue monitoring the countries' relations.

"Certainly, we know that China and Cuba maintain a relationship of sorts, but when it comes to the specific activities outlined in the press reporting, again, based on the information we have, that is not accurate," he told reporters.

The spy base deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed U.S. officials familiar with highly classified intelligence. It alleged that China agreed to pay billions of dollars for the facility.

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio dismissed the report as "totally untrue and unfounded information," according to a statement released by the Cuban Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

De Cossio perceived the report as a fabrication by U.S. officials, referring to previous falsehoods such as the alleged presence of Cuban troops in Venezuela, which the Cuban government has strongly denied.

"All of them are fallacies promoted with the malicious intention to justify the unprecedented reinforcement of the economic blockade, destabilization, and aggression against Cuba and to deceive public opinion in the United States and around the world," he said.

De Cossio said that notwithstanding Cuba's sovereign rights in the area of defense, the country is a part of the Declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean, which rejects all foreign military presence there, including "the military base that illegally occupies a portion of our national territory in the province of Guantanamo."

"U.S. hostility against Cuba and the extreme and cruel measures that provoke humanitarian harm and punish the people of Cuba cannot be justified in any manner," he added.

Chinese military ships moor at the port of Havana in Cuba on Nov. 10, 2015. (Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)
Chinese military ships moor at the port of Havana in Cuba on Nov. 10, 2015. (Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)
The U.S. government and communist Cuba have had a tense relationship for 60 years. The Trump administration tightened U.S. sanctions on the island. The Biden administration has eased some restrictions on travel to Cuba, though it told Congress in May that the island remained on the list of countries “not cooperating fully” in its fight against terrorism.

Concerns About Alleged China–Cuba Deal

U.S. officials have raised concerns over the alleged China–Cuba spy base deal, saying it would allow Chinese intelligence services to garner electronic communications from the southeastern United States, potentially including emails, phone calls, and satellite transmission data.

It followed the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon that traversed the continental United States earlier this year before it was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet on Feb. 4.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China, said that the United States’ “ardent diplomatic pursuit of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] in the aftermath of the spy balloon has only emboldened CCP aggression.

“We must make it clear that, as President [John] Kennedy said over 60 years ago on the eve of a previous crisis in Cuba, ‘one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.’”

According to Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a longtime China critic, the implications of Beijing’s plan are grim.

“This move by Communist China presents grave threats to America’s national security that cannot be ignored. Every American should be up in arms about this. It’s not just spying on the government, which is bad enough, it’s spying on you, seeing your emails and your data,” he said in a statement.

Eva Fu, Jackson Richman, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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