U.S. slams China over spat with Canada

The Prince George Citizen - - News -

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo slammed any sug­ges­tion that two Cana­di­ans be­ing de­tained in China are on par with the ar­rest here of a Chi­nese tech ex­ec­u­tive at the United States’ be­hest, fir­ing a counter-punch Thurs­day in an es­ca­lat­ing feud be­tween Canada and China.

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, who want to try her over al­le­ga­tions of fraud in vi­o­lat­ing Iran sanc­tions. Her ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing is on­go­ing.

Dur­ing an of­fi­cial visit to Canada, Pom­peo said the Cana­dian de­ten­tions and Meng’s ar­rest are not “mo­rally sim­i­lar,” sug­gest­ing in­stead that link­ing these two is­sues is “what China wants to talk about.”

“These are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent mat­ters than the Cana­dian de­ci­sion to use their due process and the rule of law to be­have in a way that’s deeply con­sis­tent with the way de­cent nations work,” Pom­peo said.

Pom­peo un­prompted and curt in­ter­jec­tion came in the wake of a ques­tion to For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land dur­ing a joint press conference af­ter the two wrapped up one-on-one meet­ings. A re­porter from the New York Times – which has long been in U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s crosshairs – asked Free­land if Canada has sought for the U.S. to with­draw its ex­tra­di­tion re­quest in or­der to se­cure the re­leases of Kovrig and Spa­vor.

China is­sued com­ments Thurs­day say­ing the fate of the two Cana­di­ans, and the in­creas­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in China-Canada re­la­tions, is Canada’s fault and is linked to Meng’s de­ten­tion.

“When you ask this ques­tion, you con­nect them up that’s what China wants to talk about,” Pom­peo said. “They want to talk about these two as if they are equiv­a­lent, as if they were mo­rally sim­i­lar, which they fun­da­men­tally are not.”

China’s ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion of the two Cana­di­ans was “fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent as a hu­man rights mat­ter, as a rule of law mat­ter” than Meng’s ex­tra­di­tion case, he added.

Pom­peo stressed that Trump was “un­am­bigu­ous” in mak­ing it known that Amer­ica is con­cerned about China’s “in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour” dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. He added that Amer­i­can of­fi­cials have en­gaged in “other diplo­matic ac­tiv­ity” to make the case for the re­lease of Kovrig and Spa­vor.

He did not elab­o­rate on any other steps the U.S. would be will­ing to take to help free the two Cana­di­ans.

Any de­ci­sions in Canada about Meng’s case will be left to civil ser­vants and the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, as it ought to be, Free­land said. Meng’s fu­ture, she added, would not be a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion.

Ques­tions about China loomed over Pom­peo’s first of­fi­cial visit to Ot­tawa as Trump’s top diplo­mat. China was on the agenda when he met Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, one of a num­ber of hot­but­ton is­sues the two dis­cussed ahead of the up­com­ing G7 sum­mit this week­end.

Trudeau thanked the U.S. for its sup­port in work­ing on the re­lease of Spa­vor and Kovrig dur­ing brief re­marks ahead of their closed-door meet­ing, adding that he looked for­ward to dis­cus­sions about how they could move ahead with get­ting the two men re­leased.

Canada and the U.S. are locked in dif­fer­ing bat­tles with Bei­jing – the Amer­i­cans over trade is­sues, pri­mar­ily, while Canada is in a diplo­matic dance over Kovrig, Spa­vor and China’s de­ci­sion to block im­ports of some Cana­dian agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

The Trudeau Lib­er­als and the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment have traded es­ca­lat­ing jabs since Canada’s joint statement with the Eu­ro­pean Union over the week­end on the cur­rent un­rest in Hong Kong.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has ef­fec­tively told Canada to butt out, and that its in­ter­nal af­fairs are none of Canada’s busi­ness.

Trudeau fired back Wed­nes­day dur­ing a speech where he em­pha­sized Canada wasn’t go­ing to back down – not on the case of Kovrig and Spa­vor, and not on the need to safe­guard the hu­man rights and free­doms of the 300,000 Cana­di­ans in Hong Kong and the rest of the peo­ple there.

The war of words con­tin­ued Thurs­day dur­ing a reg­u­lar press conference in China with a for­eign min­istry spokesper­son.

“Loud­ness is not nec­es­sar­ily per­sua­sive and peo­ple can tell right from wrong,” said Geng Shuang, ac­cord­ing to an English tran­script of a news conference pub­lished on­line. “We urge the Cana­dian side to re­flect upon its wrong­do­ing, take China’s solemn po­si­tion and con­cerns se­ri­ously, im­me­di­ately re­lease Ms. Meng Wanzhou and en­sure her safe re­turn to China.”

Trudeau and Trump don’t have a sched­uled meet­ing, as yet, when the G7 sum­mit gets un­der­way in Biar­ritz, France, this week­end, but the two spoke by phone late last week about the Chi­nese de­ten­tions, the on­go­ing un­rest in Hong Kong and their shared sup­port of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the new North Amer­i­can trade deal.

A read­out of this con­ver­sa­tion is­sued by the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice said the two looked for­ward to fur­ther­ing these dis­cus­sions “when they see each other at the up­com­ing G7 sum­mit.”

CP PHOTO

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo looks on as Cana­dian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land re­sponds to a ques­tion Thurs­day dur­ing a joint news conference in Ot­tawa.

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