According to two senior U.S. officials, China and Cuba are engaged in discussions to establish a presence in Cuba, which could potentially be used for espionage activities targeting the United States. These talks have raised concerns among lawmakers, who draw parallels to the Cold War era.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence matter, revealed that China is directly engaging with Cuba to establish a base on the island, located just 100 miles off the U.S. coast. This strategic location would enable Beijing to gather signals intelligence on the southeastern parts of the United States, home to numerous military installations and key industries. According to the officials, the evidence of these negotiations came to light in recent weeks.
Establishing such a pact between China and Cuba could potentially disrupt the Biden administration’s efforts to improve relations with Beijing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned to visit China in February but postponed the trip after the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon traveling across North America. Diplomatic engagements with China primarily focus on economic and trade matters, with minimal military-to-military discussions.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on these discussions, claiming that China and Cuba reached a “secret agreement” involving substantial payments from China to Cuba to establish a facility. However, the officials interviewed by POLITICO could not confirm the existence of a finalized deal; they only confirmed that China and Cuba are engaged in discussions related to spying on the United States.
When asked about these negotiations, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby neither confirmed nor denied their occurrence but stated that the administration is closely monitoring China’s regional activities. He later clarified that the reports were “inaccurate,” without specifying which details were incorrect, and expressed confidence in meeting security commitments at home and in the region.
In response to the revelations, Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement expressing deep concern. They deemed it unacceptable for China to establish an intelligence facility within 100 miles of the United States and urged the Biden administration to prevent this perceived threat to national security and sovereignty.
Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Carlos Fernández de Cossio, released a statement dismissing the Wall Street Journal’s story as completely false and unsubstantiated. He emphasized Cuba’s rejection of any foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Cuban Embassy did not respond to inquiries regarding talks with China about a spying arrangement targeting the United States.
This development occurs as the United States seeks to restore regular military contacts with China. CIA Director William Burns recently made a secret trip to China to maintain open lines of communication between the two nations. President Joe Biden sent the intelligence chief, hoping to revive high-level discussions between the two powers.
A Defense Department official acknowledged that the Pentagon is aware of China’s efforts to invest in global infrastructure, including the Western Hemisphere, which may serve military purposes. They confirmed that the Pentagon will continue to monitor these activities.
The CIA declined to comment on the talks, while the State Department did not respond to requests for comment. The Chinese embassy in Washington stated that it was unaware of the case and declined to provide further information.
The revelation has already prompted members of Congress to express concerns about rekindling a great power rivalry similar to the Cold War. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select China Committee, suggested retaliatory actions, such as ending Huawei export licenses, restricting outbound investment in critical sectors, and preventing Chinese Communist Party land purchases near military bases. Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) urged Secretary of State Blinken to cancel his planned visit to China and cited recent incidents of harassment against American ships and aircraft in the Indo.