Sat, 23 Sep 2023

The Pentagon says reports that China and Cuba have reached a secret pact allowing Beijing to build an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island that is 160 kilometers from the United States are "not accurate."

"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," Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

According to the reports, which first appeared in The Wall Street Journal citing unnamed intelligence officials, China had agreed to pay financially hard-pressed Cuba several billion dollars for the spy facility, which would allow China to collect electronic communications from throughout the southeastern U.S., where numerous military bases are located.

Ryder added that the Pentagon was not aware of China setting up any type of military base in Cuba or elsewhere in the region.

However, he cautioned that the relationship between Cuba and China is something that the Pentagon continuously monitors, along with any type of "coercive activity or belligerent activity" by China in the Western Hemisphere.

A senior White House official also described the media reports as "not accurate."

Asked about the report, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington told Reuters, 'We are not aware of the case, and as a result, we can't give a comment right now.'

A Defense Department official told VOA the U.S. would not comment directly on the reports of a planned Chinese facility in Cuba.

"On a broader level, we are very aware of [China's] attempts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including in the Western Hemisphere," the official said. "We will continue to monitor it closely and remain confident that we are able to meet all our security commitments at home and across the region."

The White House and many lawmakers in Congress consider China to be the U.S.' chief economic and military rival. The U.S. is the world's biggest economy, and China is the second largest.

Earlier this year, the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, but not before it traversed the breadth of the United States and flew over numerous military bases. Last weekend, a Chinese warship abruptly sailed across the bow of a U.S. destroyer as it passed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. said the incident forced the American ship to slow down to avoid a collision.

Republican opponents of Biden were quick to attack the administration about the reported Chinese venture into the Western Hemisphere, although it was unclear what, if anything, the U.S. could do to stop it.

"Joe Biden needs to wake up to the real Chinese threats on our doorstep," Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and a current Republican presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the closest U.S. state to Cuba, said on Twitter, "The threat to America from Cuba isn't just real, it is far worse than this."

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