China’s latest attempt to spy on the United States may be coming to Washington’s own backyard. The Wall Street Journal reports that Cuba has made a secret pact to allow China to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility focused on collecting signals intelligence from the United States on the island. That would mean Chinese intelligence could monitor emails, phone calls, satellite transmissions, and shipping traffic along the southeastern United States from a location roughly 100 miles off Florida’s coastline, potentially enabling Beijing to obtain intelligence from top U.S. military bases—including U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, and Fort Liberty in North Carolina.
The base’s exact location and when it may be built are still unknown, but sources familiar told the Journal that China paid Cuba several billion dollars to construct the planned facility. The U.S. Defense Department and Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossio both denied the report’s accuracy, with Fernández de Cossio calling the report “totally mendacious and unfounded information.” Beijing did not directly address the allegations, saying it was “not aware” of the situation and then accusing the United States of “spreading rumors.” Several other media outlets, including CNN, have since corroborated the Journal’s initial reporting. The top Democrat and Republican on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a joint statement on Thursday, saying they are “deeply disturbed” by the reports and calling on the Biden administration “to take steps to prevent this serious threat to our national security and sovereignty.”
A Cuban signals base would not be Beijing’s first attempt to keep a watchful eye on its biggest diplomatic and economic rival. On Feb. 1, a Chinese spy balloon was spotted over Montana, alarming many Americans and prompting numerous U.S. lawmakers to issue grave threats against Chinese foreign influence efforts. In total, at least five Chinese spy balloons have been tracked across U.S. airspace since 2017. This also comes at a time when Beijing has invested billions of dollars into artificial intelligence development and other technological arms races, FP’s Rishi Iyengar reported, resulting in a “Cold War arms race dynamic.”