(Headline USA) China has been operating a spy base in Cuba since at least 2019, as part of a global effort by Beijing to upgrade its intelligence-gathering capabilities, according to an anonymous American official.
The official said the U.S. intelligence community has been aware of China’s spying from Cuba and a larger effort to set up intelligence-gathering operations around the globe for some time.
The existence of the Chinese spy base was confirmed after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China and Cuba had reached an agreement in principle to build an electronic eavesdropping station on the island. The Journal reported China planned to pay a cash-strapped Cuba billions of dollars as part of the negotiations.
The U.S. intelligence community had determined Chinese spying from Cuba has been an “ongoing” matter and is “not a new development,” the administration official said.
Joe Biden‘s national security team was briefed by the intelligence community soon after he took office in January 2021 about a number of sensitive Chinese efforts around the globe where Beijing was weighing expanding logistics, basing and collection infrastructure as part of the People’s Liberation Army’s attempt to further its influence, the official said.
Chinese officials looked at sites spanning the Atlantic Ocean, Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific. The effort included looking at existing collection facilities in Cuba, and China conducted an upgrade of its spying operation on the island in 2019, the official said.
Tensions between the U.S. and China have been fraught throughout Biden’s term.
The relationship may have hit a nadir last year after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to democratically governed Taiwan. That visit, the first by a sitting House speaker since Newt Gingrich in 1997, led China, which claims the island as its territory, to launch military exercises around Taiwan.
Beijing also was angered by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s stopover in the U.S. last month that included an encounter with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The speaker hosted the Taiwanese leader at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press