White House Defends Its Deceptive Denial of Chinese Spy Base in Cuba: ‘Absolutely Not’ Beneficial for Public to Know

Iran - John Kirby, national security council coordinator, speaks during a news conference
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby railed against “shameful” intelligence leaks which surfaced last week indicating that China is working on building, or may already have, an intelligence facility in Cuba, information Kirby deemed “absolutely not” beneficial for the American public to know.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing anonymous alleged U.S. government sources, that China had brokered a deal with the fellow communist Castro regime to establish an intelligence-gathering operation on the island, where America has maintained a sensitive military facility, the Guantánamo Bay base, for over a century. Kirby himself was quoted in the original report, stating, “while I cannot speak to this specific report, we are well aware of—and have spoken many times to—the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including in this hemisphere.”

The day the report was published, Kirby said it was “not accurate,” and the Wall Street Journal updated the text of the article to paraphrase, rather than quote, Kirby’s statement — and to add his later denial.

Watch — White House: China-Cuba Spy Base Report Not True, But We Won’t Say How or Deny Plans for Base to Exist

Over the weekend, multiple international news services reported that the White House rejected the report of China planning an intelligence base in Cuba because it had already been operating one since at least 2019. An anonymous official reportedly told the Spanish news agency EFE that the base was a problem “inherited” from the administration of President Donald Trump. The Associated Press described the White House’s claim as China having “upgraded” the facility in 2019, suggesting it had been in operation long enough to require renovation and thus may have preceded the Trump administration.

President Joe Biden served as vice president under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who counted among his signature foreign policy achievements a “thaw” with the brutal communist Castro regime that resulted in mass arrests, extreme beatings, and torture of political dissidents. The Obama “thaw” preceded the incidence of dozens of reports of “sonic attacks” in both Cuba and China against American diplomats and private citizens, now commonly known as “Havana syndrome.”

Kirby attended Monday’s White House press briefing, receiving multiple questions about his statement that the Wall Street Journal report on the Chinese alleged spy base was “inaccurate.” He used the platform to sternly condemn sources that would share information about a potential secret Chinese intelligence-gathering operation 90 miles from American shores, calling the sources “shameful.”

“It’s shameful that somebody, or somebodies, somehow think it’s okay to put this kind of information in the public bloodstream,” Kirby told reporters, adding, “Obviously, you and your bosses make the decision about whether you’re going to report on it.”

“Sadly, not everybody seems to take it as seriously as we do,” he said in response to another question on the matter, “because, clearly, there’s a source or sources out there that think it’s somehow beneficial to put this kind of information into the public stream, and it’s absolutely not.”

Kirby stated that to his knowledge — despite his excoriating comments towards potential Biden administration colleagues for speaking to the press anonymously — the government is making no effort to find the source of the leak on the Cuba story.

Kirby refused to answer multiple questions about his objections to the Wall Street Journal report, insisting that it was “not accurate,” but when asked to elaborate on how, he simply responded, “no.” He defended his own remarks without addressing the fact that the Wall Street Journal quoted him in the original article, insisting that he offered only the information that was safe to discuss publicly as the situation developed.

“The fact that we came out a couple of days later and provided some clarifying information does not mean and should not be taken, as I’ve seen in some of the press reporting, as some kind of walk-back,” he insisted. “The original reporting, as we said, was inaccurate. And we did the best we could in the moment to be as forthcoming as we could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to prevent some inaccurate reporting.”

Kirby also described as categorically “true” that China operated a spy base in Cuba during the Trump administration.

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied the reporting. The state-run Global Times communist propaganda newspaper described reports of a Chinese espionage facility in Cuba as an “old-fashioned and crappy … script” meant to disturb Biden’s efforts to improve relations with Beijing after January’s “spy balloon” incident, in which an unauthorized Chinese aircraft invaded American airspace. Biden allowed the vessel to fly across the entire continental U.S., reportedly gathering sensitive intelligence, before shooting it down in the Atlantic Ocean.

Flashback — White House: “Confident” Spy Balloon Didn’t Get Anything Beyond What China Can Get Anyway “Because We Knew Where It Was Going”

Reports surfaced last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Beijing this month, a second attempt to visit after the first was originally scheduled for February, reportedly, but canceled during the spy balloon controversy. The Chinese Communist Party never confirmed Blinken’s visit and thus refused to confirm its cancelation. Beijing is similarly refusing to answer questions regarding any potential future visits by the top American diplomat.

Kirby told White House reporters Monday that reports of China’s activities in Cuba will not affect and will have nothing to do with any potential travel by Blinken.

Blinken himself addressed the rumors during a briefing alongside Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani in Washington on Monday, claiming that Biden had called for “quietly” convincing rogue states such as Cuba to stop cooperating with the Chinese government on illicit intelligence-gathering and that this had somehow worked.

“With regard to Cuba, when this administration took office in January 2021, we were briefed on a number of sensitive efforts by Beijing around the world to expand their overseas logistics, basing, collection infrastructure,” Blinken said, “to allow them to project and sustain military power at the greater distance. … based on the information we have, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] conducted an upgrade of its intelligence collection facilities in Cuba in 2019.”

Blinken claimed the Biden State Department was “quietly, carefully, but in our judgment, with results” convincing anti-American governments not to host Chinese spy bases.

“We’ve engaged governments that are considering hosting PRC bases at high levels. We’ve exchanged information with them. Our experts assess that our diplomatic efforts have slowed down this effort by the PRC,” he claimed.

Tajani used the opportunity, despite not being asked about Cuba, to remind reporters that Cuba is a serial human rights criminal state and call for the liberation of political prisoners.

The Castro regime, which has killed American citizens with impunity throughout its half-century of rule of Cuba, insisted on Monday that it is “not a threat” to America.

“The affirmations of the Secretary of State of the United States regarding the presence of a Chinese spy base in Cuba constitute a falsehood,” top Castro regime diplomat Bruno Rodríguez, the foreign relations minister, said in a statement on Monday, apparently responding to the remarks Blinken made in his press conference with Tajani.

“Cuba is not a threat to the United States or to any country. The United States applies a policy that, on a routine basis, threatens and punishes the Cuban population collectively,” Rodríguez claimed, referring to limited sanctions on Castro regime cronies in response to their history of human rights crimes. “The United States imposes and uses dozens of military bases in our region and, additionally, against the will of the Cuban people, a base in the territory that it illegally occupies in Guantánamo province.”

The Guantánamo Bay military facility is the product of a treaty that Cuba signed voluntarily in 1934; America pays a monthly rent for its use.

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