(Bloomberg) -- The White House pushed back on a report that the Chinese government cut a deal with Cuba to set up a spy base on the island that would target US military bases and communications.
“I’ve seen that press report. It’s not accurate,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview on MSNBC, without specifying if the report was false in its entirety.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that China and Cuba had struck a secret agreement to establish a spy facility on the island, citing US officials familiar with the matter, who said Beijing was paying several billion dollars for the base. The facility would allow Chinese intelligence services to eavesdrop on electronic communications throughout southeastern US where many military bases are located, according to the report.
The US learned about the plan in recent weeks but believed building had yet to start on the facility, CNN reported Friday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Earlier: White House Sees ‘Growing Aggressiveness’ From Chinese Military
“What I can tell you is that we have been concerned since day one of this administration about China’s influence activities around the world, certainly in this hemisphere and in this region,” Kirby told MSNBC. “We’re watching this very, very closely.”
Cuba’s foreign affairs ministry denied the report, saying in a statement it was “fabricated by US officials.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said they were not aware of the reports at a briefing in Beijing on Friday. “It’s well-known that the US interferes in the affairs of other countries and has been a leading power in hacking and eavesdropping,” he added.
The revelation comes as the US looks to resume high-level dialog with China after separate allegations of Chinese espionage earlier this year derailed talks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to China in the coming weeks to meet senior officials, including potentially Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week.
The Biden administration has been working for months to arrange that visit, after Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing in February after an alleged Chinese spy balloon crossed the US.
While high-level communication is resuming, military tensions between the world’s two largest economies have flared over the past month. China declined a US meeting request between the two countries’ defense ministers last week, and the White House has warned of growing aggressiveness by China’s military forces who have engaged in dangerous maneuvers off the coast of China.
Kirby earlier predicted it would not take long before people are injured if Beijing doesn’t start behaving more responsibly.
--With assistance from Michael McDonald, Matthew Bristow, Jenni Marsh, Lucille Liu and Dan Murtaugh.
(Updates with Foreign Ministry comment.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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