China to establish spy facility in Cuba: WSJ

STORY: A report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday said China has reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish a spy facility on the island nation.

But the Biden Administration was quick to cast doubt on the report. Here’s Pentagon Press Secretary and Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder.

“I can tell you, based on the information that we have, that that is not accurate, that we are not aware of China and Cuba developing any type of spy station. Separately, I would say that the relationship that those two countries share is something that we continuously monitor. I would say that that, as you've heard us say many times, China's activities, both in our hemisphere and around the world, any concerning activities are something that we will continue to watch closely. But in terms of that particular report, no, it's not accurate.”

Cuba’s government ALSO cast doubt on the report, with vice foreign minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio calling it a U.S. fabrication meant to justify Washington's decades-old economic embargo against the island.

A spy installation in Cuba, which is roughly 100 miles from Florida, would allow China to gather electronic communications from the southeastern U.S., which houses many U.S. military bases.

Beijing would also be able to monitor ship traffic, the newspaper reported, citing U.S. officials familiar with classified intelligence. That is a concern of Jaganath Sankaran an assistant professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas who conducts research on China’s military.

“But I think the even more scary as part of the electronic intelligence aspect of how ships work, how and what frequency the ships on the ship-based carrier, based aircraft communicate on how do these work? I mean, so you're trying to get all this information in. That's very tough to get, especially if you're far away from the main operating base. So that shift, that ability to absorb over a long time and to make a map of how U.S. military assets communicate would be probably much more important if this comes into play.”

According to the Journal report, citing officials, China and Cuba have reached an agreement in principle, with China to pay Cuba "several billion dollars" to allow the eavesdropping station.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said it was not aware of the case and couldn’t give a comment right now.

The Journal said U.S. officials declined to provide more details about the proposed location of the spy station or whether construction had begun. The reported deal comes as Washington and Beijing are taking tentative steps to soothe tensions that spiked after a suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon crossed the United States before the U.S. military shot it down off the East Coast in February.

Thursday's report could also raise questions about a trip to China that U.S. officials say Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning in coming weeks. Washington's top diplomat had earlier scrapped the visit over the spy balloon incident.