China: ‘Hacker empire’ US is ‘spreading rumours’ with talk of Cuba spy station

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry on Friday said “spreading rumours and slander” is a common tactic of “hacker empire” the United States, after a media report that China has reached a deal with Cuba to set up an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island.

Citing U.S. officials familiar with classified intelligence, the Wall Street Journal said such a spy installation would allow Beijing to gather electronic communications from the southeastern United States, home to many U.S. military bases, as well as monitor ship traffic.

Cuba and China have reached an agreement in principle, the U.S. officials said, with China to pay Cuba “several billion dollars” for the eavesdropping station, according to the Journal.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told Reuters on Thursday that the report was “not accurate,” but did not say what he thought was inaccurate.

“As we all know, spreading rumours and slander is a common tactic of the United States,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry.

“The United States is also the most powerful hacker empire in the world, and also veritably a major monitoring nation.”

The reported deal could raise questions about a near-term visit to China that U.S. officials say Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning.

Washington and Beijing have been taking tentative steps to ease tensions that further soured after a suspected Chinese spy balloon crossed the United States early this year and prompted Blinken to scrap a previous visit to Beijing.

Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio dismissed the report as “totally mendacious and unfounded,” calling it a U.S. fabrication meant to justify Washington’s decades-old economic embargo against the island.

Cuba rejects all foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, he said.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Christopher Cushing)