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Chinese military training facility in Cuba in the works just 100 miles from US shores: WSJ

China's President Xi Jinping. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
June 20, 2023

U.S. officials say China and Cuba are working together to negotiate a new joint military training facility, sparking major concerns that Chinese troops could be stationed less than 100 miles from U.S. shores. If the facility is built, the two countries will likely run joint training drills.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that discussions between China and Cuba regarding the proposal for a military training facility on the northern coast of Cuba have reached an advanced stage but have not concluded, according to U.S. intelligence.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration has attempted to contact Cuban officials in an effort to stall the deal between China and Cuba. U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the proposed military training facility in Cuba is “convincing but fragmentary” classified intelligence. The Wall Street Journal added that U.S. officials and policy makers presented “different levels of alarm” regarding the new report.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that China and Cuba had agreed on the establishment of an eavesdropping site in Cuba; however, the report was labeled inaccurate by the Biden administration. Nevertheless, just days after the administration labeled the report inaccurate, the White House declassified intelligence that publicly confirmed China has had intelligence collection facilities in Cuba since at least 2019.

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Fox News reported Tuesday that some U.S. officials view the report of China’s action in Cuba as a “geographical response” to the relationship between the United States and Taiwan. Cuba and Taiwan are each located roughly 100 miles from the United States and China.

The Wall Street Journal reported that both current and former U.S. officials believe a new joint military facility in Cuba could provide China with an opportunity to “house troops permanently” on the island, which would increase China’s ability to collect crucial intelligence against the U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the most concerning revelation is that the proposed facility is part of the “Project 141” by China’s People’s Liberation Army, which aims to expand China’s global military base and network of support. U.S. officials have indicated that China and Cuba currently have four joint eavesdropping locations in Cuba.

“We are monitoring and responding to any PRC [People’s Republic of China] attempts to expand its military or security presence around the world. And we watch closely how the PRC’s actions impact the United States,” a State Department spokesperson told the New York Post. “Our experts assess that our diplomatic efforts [with Cuba] have slowed the PRC down. We think the PRC isn’t quite where they had hoped to be.”

The State Department spokesperson told the New York Post that the United States continues “to be concerned” about China’s ongoing “activities” in Cuba.

“The PRC will keep trying to enhance its presence in Cuba, and we will keep working to disrupt it,” they said. “We have to protect the ongoing work of our diplomats, and intelligence and security professionals.”