China scoffs at reports of electronic spy base deal with Cuba

Wang Wenbin

9th June 2023 – (Beijing) China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed reports on Friday that Beijing had reached an agreement with Havana to construct an electronic eavesdropping facility in Cuba capable of monitoring communications and ship movements in the southeastern United States.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin cast aspersion on the claims published in The Wall Street Journal, calling them “rumors and slander” — a tactic Wang said is commonly employed by the U.S. government. Wang went on to criticize Washington for its longstanding embargo on Cuba and for meddling in the island nation’s internal affairs “under the banner of freedom and democracy.”

The Journal reported Thursday that China had agreed in principle to pay Cuba “several billion dollars” to build the spy base, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials. The White House National Security Council told Reuters the report was “not accurate” but did not specify how. Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio also rejected the report, calling it “totally mendacious and unfounded” and a U.S. attempt to justify its embargo. Cuba opposes any foreign military presence in Latin America, he said.

If operational, a signals intelligence facility in Cuba would allow China to gather electronic communications across a wide area of the southeastern U.S., including from numerous American military bases. It could also monitor maritime traffic in waters around Florida and the Caribbean. The base would mark the most direct challenge to U.S. national security from Cuba since the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union attempted to position nuclear missiles on the island, threatening nuclear war until Moscow backed down and removed missiles from Turkey in exchange.

The alleged deal could raise questions about Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s reported plans to visit China soon. Blinken previously cancelled a trip to Beijing after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was detected over the U.S. earlier this year. While Washington and Beijing have taken cautious steps to ease tensions, a signals intelligence pact with Cuba may undermine diplomatic progress.