By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
China is in talks with Havana to set up a joint military training center on the island just 100 miles from the U.S. coast, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with the plan.
Washington has engaged with the Cuban government to forestall the plans amid concerns it could lead to an unprecedented permanent stationing of Chinese troops and intelligence assets on the island and give China deeper insightinto U.S. continental military assets, the WSJ reported, citing the officials. While the discussions have not concluded, they are at an advanced stage and follow recent revelations that China has operated intelligence outposts on Cuba since at least 2019.
China’s People’s Liberation Army has sought to expand its global military and logistics footprint through a program known as “Project 141;” established sites include a Chinese navy base in Cambodia and an obscure military facility near a port in the United Arab Emirates, a former U.S. official said, according to the WSJ.
If completed, the facility would be the first “Project 141” site to be established in the western hemisphere, according to the WSJ.
The White House did not comment when contacted by the WSJ.
Intelligence reporting on the joint training facility is “fragmented” but considered convincing among U.S. government intelligence analysts, although officials are ascribing the intelligence with differing degrees of urgency, the WSJ reported, citing the officials.
Meanwhile, Washington is hoping to smooth tensions with China as several high-profile scuffles, including over a Chinese spy balloon that transited across the U.S., further soured relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with high-level Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, on Monday, touting progress afterward in discussions on several issues but coming away without achieving reactivated military-to-military communication channels.
Blinken raised concerns to Xi about Chinese intelligence operations in Cuba, according to the State Department.
The Biden administration characterized a June 8 report from the WSJ that described Chinese plans to establish a signals intelligence collection outpost on Cuba as “inaccurate”, without providing specifics. White House officials disclosednewly-declassified intelligence days later showing that China has established intelligence collection operations for years and conducted at least one major upgrade to existing facilities in 2019.
Recent intelligence suggests China intends to pursue “centralization” of the four intelligence sites in Cuba, although what the implications of that would be are not entirely clear, according to the WSJ, citing a U.S. intelligence report from earlier this year.
The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. did not expand further when asked about the joint military facility by the WSJ, and Cuba’s embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
Some officials say China’s relationship with Cuba and plans to upgrade military cooperation is meant to mirror how the U.S. approaches Taiwan, an island China claims as sovereign territory sitting roughly 100 miles from the mainland, according to the WSJ. The U.S. invests heavily in building up Taiwan’s military and has dispatched National Guard units to train Taiwanese troops.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.