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Trump Didn’t Do Enough to Counter Chinese Spying, Blinken Says


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t do enough to counter Chinese efforts to boost intelligence-gathering overseas after discovering that Beiijng had been operating a spy facility in Cuba since 2019.

Blinken said the incoming Biden administration was briefed in 2021 about Chinese efforts to “project and sustain military power at a greater distance,” and the U.S. engaged with other governments to blunt China’s intelligence-gathering push. Although the top U.S. diplomat didn’t comment directly on the U.S. response to the Cuba facility, he said efforts in recent years had slowed China’s ambitions.

“It was our assessment that despite awareness of the basing efforts and some attempts to address the challenge in the past administration, we weren’t making enough progress on this issue and we needed a more direct approach,” Blinken told reporters Monday at a briefing alongside Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.

Blinken’s remarks came after the U.S. offered conflicting responses to a Wall Street Journal report last week that the Chinese and Cuban governments have secretly agreed to position Chinese spy facilities in Cuba. After initially dismissing the report as “not accurate,” the White House on Saturday acknowledged the existence of the facilities but called them part of a longstanding Chinese intelligence presence that was expanded in 2019.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman who dismissed the report of a new listening post in Cuba as false, said on Monday that “we were as forthcoming as we should have been at the time the first stories appeared” because “the sensitive nature of this information is such that we just simply couldn’t go into more detail.” He said the intelligence community later agreed to allow him to confirm that the base was established in 2019.

The administration’s account of the base has led to a welter of accusations and denials. Cuba said there was no such facility, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday accused the U.S. of spreading “false information” in hopes of causing a rift between “sincere friends” China and Cuba.

On his Truth Social account, Trump blamed Biden for the listening post in Cuba.

“China just, effectively, took over Cuba,” he wrote. “Would never have happened under the Trump administration!”

Cliff Sims, a former deputy director of national intelligence under Trump, also disputed the Biden administration claim. He accused the White House of trying to deflect blame.

“If such a ‘spy base’ existed in ’19, it would have been discussed at the highest levels,” he wrote in a tweet. “It didn’t & it wasn’t.”

Blinken declined to offer specifics about the Biden administration’s strategy to counter China other than to say diplomacy is a key element.

“We’ve engaged governments that are considering hosting PRC bases at high levels,” he said, referring to China by its formal name, the People’s Republic of China. “We’ve exchanged information with them. Our experts assess that our diplomatic efforts have slowed down this effort.”

Source: The Japan Times

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