Mike Pompeo meets Justin Trudeau, says China detention of two Canadians 'wrong'

Hong Kong riot police clash with masked protesters at Yuen Long station

Hong Kong riot police clash with masked protesters at Yuen Long station

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said his government had no intention of backing down in the dispute and would defend Canada's interests.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday assured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that American officials were working to free two Canadian men who have been held by China since late past year.

Pompeo was visiting Ottawa for the day ahead of a weekend summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in France where relations with China are set to be discussed.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been held in China since shortly after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of American authorities.

The next month, the USA charged Meng and her company with 23 counts of corporate espionage and violating sanctions on Iran.

"We need to have an extradition treaty in place for both of our countries to function well and for that border to work".

"It's wrong that they're being held".

The Secretary of State reiterated face-to-face talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping where Trump directly lobbied Xi to release the Canadians, and said the U.S. would continue such efforts.

Beijing has hit back by imposing duties on USA products including chemicals, coal and medical equipment.

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Trudeau said at the start of his meeting with Pompeo that he would bring up plight of the two Canadians and thank the USA for its efforts as well as talk about "how we move forward on that".

China has accused Canada of arresting Ms. Meng at the bidding of the U.S.as part of a politically-motivated trade war. China has also stopped importing certain Canadian products like canola and meat.

Since then, China has arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, while blocking billions of dollars in Canadian agricultural shipments. "As for the USA case against Ms. Meng, I think that's a matter for the US and the US criminal justice system".

Pompeo accused a reporter of "taking the Chinese line" when the journalist compared the detained Canadians to Meng's arrest.

In response, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa on Thursday blamed Canada for "gross difficulties" in bilateral ties and demanded the release of Meng.

"They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent as if they're morally similar which they fundamentally are not". Her arrest put Canada in the centre of a diplomatic struggle between China and the United States, which sought her arrest and is seeking her extradition.

Asked whether Washington saw Meng as a bargaining chip in the dispute, Pompeo replied "No". The U.S. has taken pains to emphasize that the trade talks are separate from the U.S. case against Meng.

Getting the new U.S. -Mexico-Canada trade deal into action is important, Pompeo said. Under his Liberal government, he said, Canada has become a world leader on advocacy for climate change as well as the rights of women, girls and LGBTQ people. The surprise announcement is likely to set back USA efforts to bolster security cooperation with two of its most important allies in the Asian region.

The prime minister said Canada will continue to engage in dialogue with the Asian power, but it won't stop standing up for fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly.

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