As Blinken pays respects to Xi Jinping, new reports raise prospect of Chinese troops in Cuba

by WorldTribune Staff, June 20, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken jetted to Beijing on Monday in a move to smooth ties with, rather than deter communist leader Xi Jinping who immediately rebuffed Blinken’s request to re-establish a military back channel.

Blinken told reporters after meeting with Xi that he “repeatedly” raised the matter during his trip but that “at this moment, China does not agree to move forward.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday. / Leah Millis / Press Pool

Meanwhile, new reports indicate that China may plan to deploy troops to America’s doorstep.

China and Cuba are negotiating to establish a new joint military training facility on the island. The facility “could lead to the stationing of Chinese troops and other security and intelligence operations just 100 miles off Florida’s coast,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

A reference to the proposed new training facility in Cuba “is contained in highly classified new U.S. intelligence, which they described as convincing but fragmentary. It is being interpreted with different levels of alarm among policy makers and intelligence analysts,” the Journal noted.

During his trip to Beijing, Blinken raised U.S. concerns about Chinese intelligence activities in Cuba, the State Department said in a statement.

China and Cuba already jointly run four eavesdropping stations on Cuba.

Writing in last week’s edition of, Richard Fisher noted that a June 9 leak by “U.S. officials” to the Wall Street Journal said that “China and Cuba have reached a secret agreement for China to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island.”

Already Cuba’s largest trading partner since 2016, the Journal said China would pay “several billion dollars to allow it to build the eavesdropping station.”

Fisher continued:

That same day, however, the Journal report was denied by Pentagon spokesman Gen. Patrick Ryder, saying, “We are not aware of China and Cuba developing any type of spy station.”

Also on June 9, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told MSNBC news, of the Journal report, “it’s not accurate.”

But the next day on June 10, a “Biden Administration official” told the New York Times that a Chinese signals intelligence (SIGINT) facility “has been up and running since or before 2019, when the Chinese base was upgraded.”

The Times added the Biden Administration official “insisted that China and Cuba had struck an accord to enhance existing spy capabilities.”

The Wall Street Journal cited its sources as saying a new military facility could provide communist China with a platform to potentially house troops permanently on Cuba and broaden its intelligence gathering, including electronic eavesdropping, against the U.S.

“Most worrying for the U.S.: The planned facility is part of China’s ‘Project 141,’ an initiative by the People’s Liberation Army to expand its global military base and logistical support network,” the Journal reported, citing one current and one former U.S. official.

Other Project 141 sites include a deal for a Chinese naval outpost in Cambodia and a military facility whose purpose isn’t publicly known at a port in the United Arab Emirates, a former U.S. official said. None of the previously known Project 141 sites are in the Western Hemisphere.

Some of those facilities include intelligence-gathering capabilities as well, including a Chinese base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, Beijing’s only military base outside the Pacific region, where China has been working to build a facility for gathering signals intelligence.

An official with the Chinese Embassy in Washington referred to comments from a senior foreign-ministry spokesman in Beijing on June 9, saying he wasn’t aware of any deal between China and Cuba and saying the U.S. is an “expert in chasing shadows” in other countries and meddling in their affairs.

“We hope that relevant parties can focus more on things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust and regional peace and stability development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said when asked about the Cuba negotiations at a regular briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

Cuba’s Embassy in Washington had called the Journal’s earlier report “totally mendacious and unfounded.”

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