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A Chinese eavesdropping base in Cuba targets America for billions of dollars

In a step that would further complicate relations between the United States and China, prior to the expected visit of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Beijing, US officials familiar with top secret intelligence revealed that China had signed a secret agreement with Cuba to build an electronic listening station on the island.

The Wall Street Journal said in a report that building the station would be a new geopolitical threat to the United States, especially since Cuba is no more than 160 kilometers away from the American mainland, and it might allow Chinese intelligence services to monitor electronic communications throughout the southeastern United States. , where there are many military bases, US ship traffic control.

In return, the newspaper added, China agreed to pay cash-strapped Cuba several billions of dollars to allow it to build the eavesdropping station, and that the two countries reached an agreement in principle.

A Cuban woman uses coal to prepare food for her family due to an acute shortage of gas on May 18 (AP)

The disclosure of the planned site raised the concern of the Biden administration, which considers Beijing to be its most important economic and military competitor. It can also be seen as a Chinese challenge to respond to US efforts in Taiwan; This could allow the Chinese base, which has advanced military and intelligence capabilities in the backyard of the United States, to be considered a new, unprecedented threat.

“While I cannot speak for this specific report, we are well aware, and have spoken many times, of China’s efforts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. In this hemisphere… We are watching it closely, taking steps to confront it, and remaining confident that we are able to fulfill all our security commitments at home, in the region, and around the world.

According to the Wall Street Journal, US officials have described the intelligence on the planned eavesdropping station, apparently gathered in recent weeks, as convincing. They said the base would enable China to conduct signals intelligence, known in the spy world as “Signet,” which could include monitoring a range of communications, including emails, phone calls and satellite broadcasts.

Officials declined to provide more details about the proposed site for the plant, or whether construction had begun. Nor could it be determined what, if anything, the Biden administration could do to stop the plant’s construction.

The disclosure of this station renewed the political debate over dealing with Cuba, after the Biden administration was satisfied with taking minor measures to re-establish the relations that the administration of former President Barack Obama had taken, and which the administration of former President Donald Trump had suspended with Al Jazeera. It expanded consular services to allow more Cubans to visit the United States, and brought back some diplomatic staff who had been deported after a series of mysterious health incidents affected American personnel in Havana. However, it did not intend to restore normal relations with it, nor did it allow the development of trade relations and direct US investments.

The United States has previously acted to prevent foreign powers from extending their influence in the Western Hemisphere, most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war after the Soviets deployed nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba, prompting the US Navy to impose a naval blockade on the island. The Soviets backed off and removed the missiles, and a few months later, the United States quietly removed medium-range ballistic missiles from Turkey that the Soviets had complained about.

The Chinese spy balloon, the moment it was shot down by a missile in American airspace, on February 5 (AP)

The intelligence about the new base comes amid the Biden administration’s efforts to improve relations with China after months of tension that followed the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon over the United States earlier this year. Last month, CIA Director William Burns paid a secret visit to Beijing, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held talks with a senior Chinese official in Vienna. But it was not clear whether the planned Chinese wiretapping station was among the issues discussed in those meetings.

Analysts said Beijing is likely to argue that the base in Cuba is justified because of US military and intelligence activities close to China.

US military aircraft fly over the South China Sea and participate in electronic surveillance. The United States also sells weapons to Taiwan, which China considers a dissident province, and deploys forces close to the island, and its ships sail through the Taiwan Strait, in addition to its air patrols, the latest of which was Taipei’s announcement of the flight of 37 combat aircraft in its air defense zone.

Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the eavesdropping facility in Cuba would make it clear that “China is willing to do the same thing in America’s backyard.” He added, “The construction of this station indicates a new escalating phase in China’s broader defense strategy, and it may have changed the rules of the game somewhat… Choosing Cuba is also a deliberate provocation.”