China and Cuba are reportedly engaged in high-level discussions to establish a new joint military training facility on the island, raising the prospect of Beijing stationing troops less than 100 miles off U.S. shores.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence suggests talks about a facility on Cuba’s northern coast “are at an advanced stage but not concluded,” as the Biden administration has contacted Cuban officials to stall the agreement and dissuade any course of action due to concerns the Communist nation might have about ceding sovereignty.
Citing current and former U.S. officials, the Journal reported that the proposal for the China-Cuba military training facility was referenced “in highly classified new U.S. intelligence, which they described as convincing but fragmentary.”
The sources reportedly said the prospect of a facility could mean China permanently hosting troops in Cuba and broadening intelligence gathering against the United States.
One current and one former U.S. official told the Journal the proposed military facility is part of “Project 141,” an initiative by China’s People’s Liberation Army to set up a global network of military outposts. The Journal said the White House declined to comment.
Some intelligence officials said Beijing’s sights on Cuba come as a geographical response to the U.S. relationship with Taiwan.
Cuba and Taiwan are each about 100 miles off the U.S. and Chinese mainlands, respectively.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent the past two days on a high-level trip to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and told reporters afterward that the U.S. “does not support Taiwan independence,” yet remains “committed to meeting our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act, including making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself.”
Blinken condemned “the PRC’s provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, as well as in the South and East China Seas.”
In a statement Monday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that during Blinken’s visit both sides discussed “a range of global and regional security issues, including Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the DPRK’s provocative actions and U.S. concerns with PRC intelligence activities in Cuba.”
“The Secretary made clear that the United States will work with its allies and partners to advance our vision for a world that is free, open and upholds the rules-based international order,” Miller said.
The Journal was also the first to report about plans for a Chinese spy base in Cuba earlier this month.
After Politico also picked up the story, and White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters both reports were “not accurate,” the Biden administration confirmed two days later the existence of at least four Chinese eavesdropping stations in Cuba dating back to 2019, based on newly declassified intelligence.