Wed, 20 Mar 2019

The United States and Canada promised a fair judicial process for a Chinese tech executive who was arrested earlier this month in Canada.

In talks at the State Department on Friday, the U.S. and Canadian foreign and defense ministers put on a united front, following a growing diplomatic dispute between the United States and China, in which Canada finds itself in the middle.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland defended her country's detention of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, saying it was 'not a political decision,' but 'a matter of following the rules.'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was also 'respecting the rule of law each step along the way' as it seeks Meng.

Canada arrested Meng at the request of the United States, which says Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. She has been released on bail and is awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

Disagreement with Trump

Freeland implicitly pushed back against recent comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said the case could be used as part of wider trade negotiations with Beijing.

'It is also very important for Canada that extradition agreements are not to be used for political purposes,' she said. 'Canada does not do it that way and I believe it is obvious that democratic countries, such as our partners in the United States, do the same.'

Freeland also said she was extremely concerned about the fate of two Canadians - businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig - who were detained in China this week, in what is widely seen as a case of retaliation against Canada's detention of Meng.

'For me and the prime minister, there are no issues that touch us more personally and immediately than the detention of Canadians outside our country,' Freeland said, adding, 'This is a huge priority for our government.'

Canadians 'ought to be returned'

Secretary of State Pompeo called China's detention of the Canadian citizens 'unacceptable' and said that they 'ought to be returned.'

WATCH: China Denies Arrest of Canadians Tied to Meng Case

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China's foreign ministry says the Canadian citizens are each being investigated on suspicion of violating China's national security laws. Analysts and rights groups have called those laws powerful and vague.

Canada's Foreign Ministry said Canadian officials were granted consular access on Friday to one of the detainees and are still trying to contact the second.

William Gallo contributed to this report.

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