According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, China and Cuba have reached a secret deal whereby an electronic eavesdropping facility will be installed on the island which is about 160 km from Florida. However, the US and Cuban governments are skeptical of the report. 

A map showing the position of the US and Cuba and its proximity to Florida. (Photo: Al Jazeera)

The newspaper stated that such establishment of a spy machinery, would enable China to access electronic communications from the south-eastern US, which holds a number of US military bases, and also allow monitoring of ship traffic. It cited US officials who are familiar with classified intelligence.

It was reported that the two countries have agreed in principle and China is to fund Cuba with several billion dollars for the installation of the eavesdropping station. The spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, John Kirby informed the Reuters that they have seen the report and it’s not accurate, but no specifications of what exactly was incorrect was made. He stated that the US has real concerns regarding the relationship between China and Cuba and is monitoring it.

John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. (source: AP photo/Alex Brandon)

A US defence department spokesperson, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said that they are not aware of Cuba and China working out a new kind of spy Station. The vice Foreign Minister of Cuba, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio rejected the report saying that it was totally mendacious and unfounded and referred to it as a US fabrication with the intention to defend and justify USA’s long term economic embargo against Cuba. 

In Washington, one of the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy said that they are not aware of such development and therefore cannot make a comment at the present moment. 

Since the Cold War period, Cuba and the US have been hostile towards each other and Cuba has since then been a hotbed of espionage. 

The Journal stated that President Joe Biden‘s administration has been alarmed by the new agreement between two of the US rivals, both with Communist governments in power. According to the journal, the US officials refused to present further details about the location of the station or whether construction has begun.

The presumption of such a deal comes at a time when both China and the US are taking measures to ease tensions that arose in February after a high-altitude spy balloon which was suspected to be from China, crossed the United States before the US military shot it down off the east coast.

The incident could also make US officials like Antony Blinken, Secretary of State’s trip to China possibly in the coming weeks doubtful. He had earlier canceled the visit on account of the spy balloon incident relations between the US and China, taking a downward storm over multiple disputes, ranging from China’s human rights record, its military exercises in the South China Sea and near Taiwan as well as technology competition.

A former senior CIA undercover officer, Daniel Hoffman expressed concern over such possible developments, and said that if such a facility is established, then Beijing will make use of Cuba as a beachhead for collection against the US. 

However, there has been a long history of the USA spying on China in its own neighborhood. There have been multiple reports on the US using Taiwan as a listening station and flying spy planes regularly in the South China Sea, which has triggered China. 

In April, the head of the National Security Bureau of Taiwan told the Parliament that it was sharing real-time encrypted intelligence with Five Eyes partners, of which the US is a member.

With the Cuban economy facing challenges like inflation, declining farm production, fuel shortages and a drop in cash, a pump of cash flow would likely be welcomed. 

The ties between the US and Cuba continue to be tense. Last year, the Biden administration partially removed some of the restrictions imposed by the Trump administration like remittances and travel to the island. However, the Cuban officials consider the steps insufficient.

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