TORONTO — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday it’s wrong that China is detaining two Canadians and the Trump administration is focused on helping them get freed.
Pompeo made the remarks at the start of a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.
"Please do know our team is focused on helping those two Canadians be released," Pompeo said to Trudeau, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and members of the media. "We're working on it diligently. It's wrong that they are being held."
Trudeau said he would bring up plight of the two Canadians and thank the U.S. for its efforts as well as talk about "how we move forward on that."
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.
Beijing threatened grave consequences after Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport and the detention severely damaged Beijing's relations with Ottawa. China has also stopped importing certain Canadian products like canola and meat. China also re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death after the Meng arrest as part of an apparent campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.
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.
China and the U.S. are currently embroiled in a trade war that has roiled global financial markets. The U.S. has taken pains to emphasize that their trade talks are separate from the U.S. case against Meng.