U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that President Donald Trump brought up China’s detainment of Canadians directly with China’s leader and said the Trump administration is working “diligently” to return them to Canada.
Pompeo made the remarks during a news conference in Ottawa with Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. He also met Thursday morning with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Beijing detained ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei. She was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities who want her to face fraud charges in the U.S.
Pompeo said he was there when Trump brought up the detained Canadians with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Japan in late June. He said Trump made an unambiguous statement about America’s concern about the “inappropriate behavior.”
“We will continue to do that until such time as they are home with their families,” Pompeo said.
The two detained Canadians have been accused of conspiring together to steal state secrets. No evidence has been provided and they have not been allowed access to family members or lawyers while in custody.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, is accused of lying to banks about the company’s dealing with Iran in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. She is out on bail in Vancouver and living in her multimillion-dollar mansion awaiting extradition proceedings.
Pompeo accused a reporter of “taking the Chinese line” when the journalist compared the detained Canadians to Meng’s arrest.
“The arbitrary detention of two Canadians citizens in China is fundamentally different as a human rights matter, as a rule of law matter,” Pompeo said. “They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they are morally similar, which they are fundamentally not,” he added.
Pompeo also said he is “disappointed” that South Korea said on Thursday it will terminate an intelligence-sharing deal with Japan. “We’re urging each of the two countries to continue to engage,” Pompeo said. He said he spoke to his South Korean counterpart earlier Thursday.
For her part, Chrystia Freeland said she will head to Cuba next week for talks with her counterpart there on the situation in Venezuela.
Freeland said while sanctions are part of the pressure being applied to force Nicolás Maduro out of the country’s presidency, all avenues for peace must be explored. She also addressed President Donald Trump’s push for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7.
Freeland said Russia’s violation of international law during its invasion and annexation of Crimea “is something we cannot allow to stand.” She said if Russia were to leave Crimea and end the war in Donbass, the member nations would “welcome a Russia which sought again to be a member in good standing.”