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Blinken says he ‘made very clear’ US ‘would have deep concerns’ about Chinese military activities in Cuba

<i>Leah Millis/Pool/Reuters</i><br/>Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly
Leah Millis/Pool/Reuters
Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

By Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler and Alex Marquardt, CNN

(CNN) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “made very clear” during his meetings in Beijing this week that the United States “would have deep concerns” about China increasing its intelligence or military activities in Cuba, the top US diplomat told reporters during a press conference in London on Tuesday.

Blinken was asked about a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday that Beijing and Havana are discussing establishing a joint military training facility in Cuba.

“This is something we’re going to be monitoring very, very closely and we’ve been very clear about that. And we will protect our homeland, we will protect our interests,” he said.

Two sources familiar with the intelligence confirmed to CNN that a recent US intelligence report found that China and Cuba are nearing a deal to set up the facility, but that no agreement has been reached yet.

One of the sources said that, if completed, the facility would potentially host as many as several hundred Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops. The intelligence is being perceived by some who have seen it as China’s response to US military activities in Taiwan, which is around the same distance from mainland China as Cuba is from Florida.

CNN reported in February that the US was planning to increase the number of US troops training Taiwanese forces on the self-governing island, according to US officials.

A senior administration official told CNN that they couldn’t confirm or comment on the reporting about the facility specifically, but said “we continue to be concerned about China’s longstanding activities with Cuba. China will keep trying to enhance its presence in Cuba, and we will keep working to disrupt it. We remain confident that we are able to meet all our security commitments at home and in the region.”

CNN reported earlier this month that Cuba agreed to allow China to build a spying facility on the island that could allow the Chinese to eavesdrop on electronic communications across the southeastern US, and that such facilities have existed on the island since at least 2019. Cuba and China also share intelligence regularly, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

Asked about the Wall Street Journal report on the training facility, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said she was “not aware” of it.

“We hope relevant parties will focus their time and efforts on doing things that are conducive to mutual trust and regional peace, stability and development,” she added.

CNN has reached out to the Cuban embassy for comment.

Blinken told reporters in London on Tuesday that the administration has been in touch with countries weighing whether to allow China to host military and intelligence facilities on their territory.

“Since the start of this administration, we have engaged a number of countries where we’ve seen consideration of having some kind of presence from China, intelligence, military, and we’ve engaged in a number of diplomatic efforts in that regard,” he said. “And I think they’ve had some success in slowing down these efforts.”

Asked in an interview with CBS News if he raised the Chinese spy base in his Beijing meetings, Blinken said, “I did.”

“I’m not going to characterize their response, but I told them that this is a serious concern for us,” he said.

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