In talks at the State Department on Friday, the USA and Canadian foreign and defense ministers put on a united front, speaking of historically deep ties and cooperation on issues such as Iraq, Ukraine, Syria and Russian Federation.
Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed tensions between the two allies and China over Canada's arrest of Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou.
The Canadians were Michael Spavor, a China-based consultant who arranges visits for foreigners including National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman to North Korea, and Michael Kovrig, a Mandarin-speaking former Canadian diplomat who works for the International Crisis Group, a think tank that looks for peaceful solutions to global conflicts. "They ought to be returned". "We ask all nations of the world to treat other citizens properly, and the detention of these two Canadian citizens in China ought to end".
"The Canadian government at the request of the USA side wrongly detained the Chinese citizen", Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
China detained the two - businessman Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and an adviser with the International Crisis Group (ICG) - after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on December 1. The U.S. wants her extradited on charges related to company violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran. China says he's been harming its national security.
Trump has previously attacked Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over trade, and his suggestion that he could intervene in the Meng case contradicted Canadian officials who said the arrest was not political.More news: WNYC: Ivanka Trump involved in negotiations for Trump Hotel rentals during inauguration
"It is also very important for Canada that extradition agreements are not to be used for political purposes", she said.
Trudeau, in his strongest comments on the matter to date, said China's detention of the two men was "not acceptable". Freeland said Friday's discussions focused on upholding the rule of law, and ensuring Meng's right to due process is respected and that the ongoing legal process remains free of politics.
China rejects Trudeau's insistence that the government can not interfere with the judiciary. The businesswoman was eventually released on bail and is now facing extradition to the US.
"This is one of the situations you get in when the two largest economies in the world, China and the United States, start picking a fight with each other", Trudeau told City TV in Toronto. "We're very anxious about that", he said.
Earlier Friday, John McCallum, Canada's ambassador to China, met for the first time with Kovrig, who is on a leave of absence from Global Affairs Canada. He declined to comment when pressed by reporters about Trudeau's remarks.