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Cuba has agreed to allow China to build a spy facility on the island that would allow it to tap electronic communications across the southeastern United States, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.
Initial sources said the U.S. learned about the plan in recent weeks, but it’s unclear if China has already started building surveillance facilities.
A second person familiar with the matter said the deal was in principle, but suggested there had been no move to build the facility.
This is not the first time China has attempted to spy on US electronic communications known as Signals Intelligence. A Chinese spy balloon that appeared to have passed over the United States in February was believed to be capable of collecting signal information and transmitting it to Beijing in near real time, a person familiar with the matter told CNN at the time.
In this case, the US took steps to secure sensitive sites and censor intelligence signals before shooting down the balloon. But it is unclear what the US can do to stop the construction of Chinese spy facilities in Cuba.
The Wall Street Journal first reported new information about the facility.
“This report is not accurate,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “We have serious concerns about China-Cuba relations and have been concerned since the beginning of our administration about China’s activities in our hemisphere and around the world. We remain confident that we can deliver on all of our national and regional security commitments.”
Kirby initially told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday morning that while he “cannot speak to this particular report,” U.S. officials are “familiar with and familiar with the People’s Republic of China’s infrastructure investment efforts around the world. We’ve talked about it many times,” he said. This hemisphere may also have a military purpose. ”
Cuban Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cosio denied the reports.
At a press conference in Havana on Thursday, he called the statements “absolutely false” and “slanderous.”
“Such slander is frequently fabricated by U.S. officials,” he said, alleging that reported spy bases were being used to justify U.S. sanctions against Cuba.
De Cosio added, “It is a false notion spread with malicious intent to deceive public opinion in the United States and the world by justifying an unprecedented economic blockade, destabilization and intensifying aggression against Cuba.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (Democrat) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (Republican) issued statements expressing concern over the coverage.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports that the Havana and Chinese governments are working together to target the United States and our people. We must make it clear that it is unacceptable for China to set up intelligence facilities within 100 miles of Florida and the United States, and in areas that are also densely populated with critical military installations and extensive maritime traffic. We call on the Biden administration to take steps to stop this serious threat to national security and sovereignty,” Rubio and Warner said.
The CIA declined to comment. CNN has reached out to the Chinese and Cuban embassies in Washington DC..
A source familiar with the intelligence community said the presence of wiretapping bases in Cuba raises concerns, but China already has a foothold in the United States, with a secret police station being cracked down by the Biden administration.
The United States also conducts espionage missions near China using reconnaissance planes that regularly conduct electronic wiretaps. One of them was recently intercepted by Chinese fighter jets in what the US said was a dangerous and unprofessional move.
But revelations about a possible Chinese outpost in Cuba have reached a low point in US-China relations following the reconnaissance balloon incident and several aggressive actions by Chinese aircraft and ships against US assets in the South China Sea. It was done while I was there.
The United States is trying to mend ties and last month sent CIA Director Bill Burns to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials. Secretary of State Antony Brinken is also due to visit China in the coming weeks.
But last week, China’s Defense Secretary rejected US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s request for a meeting and warned the US to stop any activity near China’s waters and airspace.
China’s Defense Minister Li Sang Fu said in Singapore last week, referring to a recent close call between Chinese and US planes and ships, saying, “The best way to prevent this is to ensure that military ships and aircraft are not allowed to enter our territorial waters and airspace.” Don’t go near it,” he said. “There is no problem if you pay attention to your country’s territorial waters and airspace.”
The Biden administration has done little to improve relations with Cuba, only resuming limited bilateral dialogue on issues such as immigration. The so-called “Havana Syndrome” that affected U.S. diplomats in the Cuban capital after efforts to improve relations under the Obama administration and the Trump administration’s decision to re-register Cuba as a Cuban state near the end of his administration , the relationship plummeted. State sponsor of terrorism.