China has been spying from Cuba for some time, US official says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China has been spying from Cuba for some time and improved its intelligence-gathering facilities there in 2019, a Biden administration official said on Saturday, following a report of a new intelligence-gathering effort. ongoing espionage on the island.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China had reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish a wiretapping facility on the island about 100 miles from Florida, but the US and Cuban governments cast doubt on the report.

The Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the media characterization “does not align with our understanding,” but did not elaborate on how the report was wrong or explain in detail. detail whether China had made efforts to build a new eavesdropping facility in Cuba.

The official said the issue predates Joe Biden’s presidency, as did Beijing’s efforts to bolster its intelligence-gathering infrastructure around the world.

“This is an ongoing issue, not a new development,” the official said. “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) upgraded its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019. This is well documented in the intelligence record.”

Asked for comment, an official at the Chinese Embassy in Washington pointed to Friday’s statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who accused the United States of “spreading rumors and slander” when speaking of a Cuban spy station, and being “the most powerful hacker empire in the world”. the world.”

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio called the Journal’s report “completely untruthful” and called it a US fabrication designed to justify Washington’s economic embargo against the island for decades. decades. He said Cuba rejects any foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The attention to alleged Chinese spying from Cuba comes as Washington and Beijing take tentative steps to ease tensions that have risen after a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon flew across the United States before the military American shoots her off the east coast in February.

That includes a trip to China that US officials say Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning for June 18. Washington’s top diplomat had previously canceled the visit because of the spy balloon incident.

The Biden administration official said that although the former administration of Donald Trump was aware of the Chinese grassroots effort in Cuba and made some attempts to meet the challenge, “we were not making enough progress and had need a more direct approach”.

The official said US diplomats had engaged governments that were considering hosting Chinese bases and had exchanged information with them.

“Our experts believe that our diplomatic efforts have slowed down the PRC,” the official said. “We believe the PRC is not quite where they hoped to be.”

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Dave Sherwood in Havana; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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