Biden Administration Says China Had Spy Base Since 2019

China and Cuba recently reached an agreement allowing China to construct a spy base on the island just 90 miles south of Florida.

A Biden administration official, after the White House initially denied the base’s existence, said China had a spy base in Cuba since 2019.

The White House official said that the U.S. intelligence community has been aware of China’s spying from Cuba for some time, considering it an “ongoing matter” that is “not a new development.”

The official said that the Biden administration has worked to prevent China from expanding its spy operations and believes some progress has gotten made through diplomacy and other actions.

The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed the existence of the Chinese spy base. It was reported that China planned to pay Cuba billions of dollars to construct a spy base.

Following the development, the White House called the report inaccurate.

“I’ve seen that press report, it’s not accurate,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an MSNBC interview Thursday. “What I can tell you is that we have been concerned since day one of this administration about China’s influence activities around the world; certainly in this hemisphere and in this region, we’re watching this very, very closely.”

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossí also denied the report.

“The slanderous speculation continues, evidently promoted by certain media to cause harm and alarm without observing minimum patterns of communication and without providing data or evidence to support what they disseminate,” Cossi wrote.

According to the White House official, Biden’s national security team was briefed about the spy base and China’s efforts to increase its influence and spying capabilities after he took office in January 2021.

Before choosing Cuba, Chinese officials looked at sites spanning the Atlantic Ocean, Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific. The Biden administration official said an already existing facility in Cuba was upgraded for China’s spying operation in 2019.

Relations between the U.S. and China have been unhealthy during Biden’s presidency. Such unhealthiness grew after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited Taiwan. The visit, marking the first by a sitting House Speaker since 1997, prompted China, which neglects Taiwan’s sovereignty, to begin military exercises around the island.

U.S.-China relations became further strained after the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had crossed into the U.S. in early 2023.