Is China Building a Secret Spy Base in Cuba? Experts Weigh in on the Possibility and Implications

They all eager to deny. Neither China, nor Cuba, nor the United States has the slightest knowledge of a “secret spy base” that Beijing is about to build in Cuba.

The Wall Street Journal claimed the opposite in an article published Thursday, June 8, citing “American officials who have knowledge of highly classified documents”.

According to the daily, China and Cuba have reached an agreement in principle providing for the payment of “billions of dollars” to Havana in order to have the right to install a listening station on the island.

China-Cuba, same fight?

This installation would be able to intercept communications of all kinds such as telephone calls, emails or even data transmissions by satellite, specifies the Wall Street Journal.

“If this information were to be confirmed, it would be an important stone in the American security pond, because the station would be barely 100 kilometers from Florida and could spy on the entire southern United States where a large number of ‘military installations,'” said Anurag Mishra, US international relations specialist at the International Team for the Study of Security (ITSS) Verona.

American elected officials sitting on the Senate Intelligence Committee also find that the prospect of such an installation at the gates of the United States is chilling. “We are deeply troubled by reports that Havana and Beijing are collaborating to target the United States and our people,” officials of the parliamentary committee said in a joint statement.

This Sino-Cuban project, although not confirmed, is in the logic of things, according to the experts interviewed by France 24. “Relations between Cuba and the United States are currently very degraded, especially since Washington decided to ‘register Cuba again [le 12 janvier 2021, NDLR] on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. A hostility from which China will surely seek to take advantage”, underlines Ho Ting Bosco Hung, specialist in Chinese security issues at the ITSS. An opportunity that is all the easier to seize for Beijing “as the two regimes are ideologically close”. , says Anurag Mishra.

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Geopolitical and economic issues

China has every interest in building a “spy station” in Cuba. First for geopolitical reasons. “Setting a first foot on the American continent is very important, because whatever conflict or standoff in which China risks being involved – in Taiwan, or in the China Sea – there is always a risk of American intervention. It is therefore vital for Beijing to learn as much as possible about the military capabilities of the United States,” said Ho Ting Bosco Hung. For him, a listening base would allow the Chinese regime to obtain the information necessary to “know what risk of being the price to pay if Beijing decides to start a war”.

Having big ears in Cuba can also bring an economic advantage. “In China, the State and the big groups work in good intelligence and if this listening station makes it possible to spy on Texan or Florida companies, the information will certainly be of interest to their Chinese competitors”, summarizes Anurag Mishra.

Beijing may also feel that it is time to arm itself with the same weapons as the United States in the spy war. “There is no doubt that if this project really exists, the Chinese will justify it by recalling that Washington has an intelligence agreement with Taiwan, which amounts to saying that the United States also has allied listening posts. in close proximity to China,” said Rosemary Foot, China-US relations specialist at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. Beijing thus signifies to its American rival that it “believes to be able to play in the same court”, adds Anurag Mishra.

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The “revelations” of the Wall Street Journal also do business in Cuba. “The Cuban question was not on the agenda of US President Joe Biden’s priorities,” notes Anurag Mishra. The hypothesis of collaboration between Beijing and Havana in the field of intelligence reminds us of the danger for the White House of abandoning the Cuban dossier.

Before Blinken moved to China

Even if the rumors around this listening station were to prove to be unfounded, they will leave their mark. “The United States will feel compelled to pay more attention to communications within range of a Chinese listening post in Cuba, just in case,” said Anurag Mishra.

“The timing of publication of this information is also very intriguing,” notes specialist Rosemary Foot. The last time that Chinese espionage activities took center stage in the media was during the so-called “spy” balloon, in February 2023. At the time, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken decided to cancel a visit to China in protest at what was seen as an aggressive act by Beijing.

It turns out that this previous trip had been rescheduled for the end of June. In other words: “one can wonder if these rumors are not intended to sabotage this trip”, underlines Rosemary Foot. The Wall Street Journal article will, in any case, “feed anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, which will complicate all initiatives to improve Sino-American relations”, regrets Ho Ting Bosco Hung.

Ultimately, whether this information is true or not, it will force Washington to react. And sometimes it’s more complicated to find the right way to fight against windmills than against real threats.

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2023-06-09 16:19:05

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