(Bloomberg) -- The White House acknowledged the existence of Chinese spy facilities in Cuba, saying their presence dates back to the Trump administration and that Beijing continues to push to expand them.
A senior administration official, in a statement issued Saturday on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, said US intelligence indicates that China has long maintained intelligence facilities in Cuba and that they were expanded in 2019.
The White House had pushed back days earlier on a report in the Wall Street Journal that China and Cuba had reached a secret agreement to establish a spy facility on the island. The administration’s position is that there’s been no new deal, and that the facilities have been in place for years.
The bases 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.
“I’ve seen that press report. It’s not accurate,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview Thursday on MSNBC.
The response on Saturday is an acknowledgment that key parts of the story were accurate, though the official said the original article still doesn’t reflect the administration’s view of the situation.
The White House in the statement sought to explain its denial by saying Chinese efforts to expand spy capabilities in Cuba and elsewhere are an ongoing issue, not a new development.
The Biden administration was briefed when it took office on Chinese efforts to expand overseas logistics, basing and collection infrastructure, the official said.
At the time, China was considering a number of sites spanning the Atlantic, Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific, the official said. That included the presence of facilities in Cuba, and the US believed China upgraded its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019.
The administration has redoubled efforts to counteract China’s push to establish intelligence outposts and has spoken with government considering hosting Chinese facilities, the official said.
The US believes that it has slowed down China’s efforts to establish similar facilities, while remaining concerned about Chinese efforts, the official said. China will continue to push to expand its presence in Cuba and the US will work to deter that, according to the official.
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