Cuban defense chief goes to China ‘to strengthen ties’

Cuba’s Armed Forces minister, Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frías, and Gen. Fan Changlong, deputy chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, met in Beijing on Tuesday (March 28) and “agreed to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries,” according to a report from the official news agency Xinhua.

“China is ready to work with Cuba to implement a consensus on deepening bilateral cooperation reached by the leaders of the two countries and to promote the further development of China-Cuba relations,” Fan Changlong was quoted as saying.

Fan said that China attaches great importance to the development of friendly relations and cooperation with the Cuban armed forces and will continue to support the military restructuring of Cuba. He added that China will promote the overall development of army-to-army exchanges and cooperation with Cuba.

In response, Cintra Frías said that Cuba values its traditional friendship with China and hopes for the development of pragmatic cooperation in various fields. He voiced his hope that both countries will raise army-to-army relations to a new level of development.

The official report from China gave no specifics about how the military cooperation will be implemented or what it will entail. It did not say how long Cintra Frías would remain in Beijing.

The two men had met before, in June of 2015, when Fan paid a two-day visit to Havana. That visit, Fan said at the time, was intended “to further enhance the traditional friendship between the two countries and the two militaries, deepen the pragmatic cooperation between the two sides and push forward the constant development of the relations between the two militaries.”

According to the Beijing-based website China Military Online, “Cuba’s armed forces rely heavily on old Soviet-era equipment, much of it in need of repair and spare parts. The Chinese military has similar hardware and Cuba is looking to Beijing for assistance in maintaining its defense capabilities.”

At a meeting in Beijing in September of 2015, Fan told Gen. Alvaro López Miera, deputy minister of the Cuban Armed Forces, that “the Chinese side will always support Cuba’s military construction, promote the comprehensive and in-depth development of the exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries, and enrich the essence and connotation of the relations between the two countries constantly.”

[Photo at top of Generals Leopoldo Cintra Frías and Fan Changlong talking on March 28 at the Diaoyutail State Guest House in Beijing.]