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.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that China and Cuba reached a secret agreement to establish a spy facility on the island. The arrangement would allow Chinese intelligence services to eavesdrop on electronic communications throughout the southeastern US where many military bases are located, and monitor ship traffic, according to the report.
Cuba’s foreign affairs ministry also denied the report, saying in a statement that it was “fabricated by US officials.”
The report cited US officials familiar with the matter, who said the deal involved Beijing paying several billion dollars for the facility.
Kirby didn’t elaborate on which aspect or aspects of the report were inaccurate.
“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.”
The revelations come only days after the White House warned of growing aggressiveness by China’s military forces who have engaged in dangerous maneuvers in the South China Sea.
Kirby earlier predicted it would not take long before people are injured if Beijing doesn’t start behaving more responsibly.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have flared over the past month. Military communications, crucially needed to avoid any miscalculation that could lead to actual conflict, though broke down last summer. China has snubbed US efforts to restore them, including by declining a meeting request between the two countries’ defense ministers last week.
The Biden administration has continued to prioritize opening other channels of communication.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to Beijing in the coming weeks for talks with senior officials, including potentially Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week.