Beijing has reportedly agreed to pay Havana billions of dollars to build an electronic surveillance facility focused on the US
China and Cuba have allegedly reached a secret agreement that would allow Beijing to construct an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing anonymous US intelligence officials.
According to the outlet, the spy base, which would be located some 100 miles (160km) from the state of Florida, would allow Chinese intelligence services to track US ship traffic and pick up electronic communications throughout the southeastern part of the country, which houses a large number of military bases.
Officials also told the WSJ that China had allegedly agreed to pay "several billion dollars" to Cuba for the project and that the two countries had reached an agreement in principle. The outlet's sources did not provide any further details as to where exactly the base would be built or whether construction had already begun.
"While I cannot speak to this specific report, we are well aware of-and have spoken many times to-the People's Republic of China's efforts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including in this hemisphere," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement in response to the WSJ's claims. "We monitor it closely, take steps to counter it, and remain confident that we are able to meet all our security commitments at home, in the region, and around the world," he added.
Neither the Chinese nor Cuban embassies in Washington have yet responded to reports about the alleged deal.
Despite the unconfirmed nature of WSJ's report, a number of US politicians and pundits have expressed concern over China's alleged plan to build a spy base in Washington's backyard.
"Establishing this facility signals a new, escalatory phase in China's broader defense strategy," Craig Singleton of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracy told the WSJ. "It's a bit of a game changer," he added, noting that "the selection of Cuba is also intentionally provocative."
Tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated in early February, when US authorities said they spotted a Chinese spy balloon over American territory and shot it down. Beijing stated that the balloon was merely a meteorological probe that ended up in US airspace by accident, but US officials maintain the device was used by China to gather intelligence.