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The Biden administration acknowledges it has a “significant” role to play in resolving the diplomatic standoff between Canada and China, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
At a bilateral meeting Tuesday, and on another occasions in the past few weeks, President Joe Biden and his administration have confirmed they will start taking an active role in the release of two Canadians detained in China since December 2018, Trudeau said in an interview Wednesday.
The two men were jailed days after authorities arrested Huawei Technologies Ltd. Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request over accusations of breaking sanctions against Iran.
“We are in this situation because we fulfilled an extradition treaty with our closest ally and China is choosing to put pressure on Canada in a way that they wouldn’t be able to, or perhaps wouldn’t do, with the United States,” Trudeau said. “Therefore, the U.S. is seeing that it has a significant role to play in the way the situation unfolded and obviously is eager to play the right role and a strong role in looking to resolve it.”
The prime minister’s comments come a day after a bilateral meeting where Biden, Trudeau their key officials tackled a range of topics, including how to coordinate their approach to a more assertive government in Beijing.
“Human beings are not bargaining chips,” Biden told reporters Tuesday, in reference to the imprisoned Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. The men, a former diplomat and an entrepreneur who ran tours to North Korea, have been behind bars for more than 800 days while Meng enjoys the relative freedom of house arrest in her Vancouver mansion.
Uighurs, Hong Kong
In the interview, Trudeau denounced grave human-rights abuses underway in China and reiterated Canada’s concern about the situation in Hong Kong. Canada’s legislature passed a non-binding motion Monday declaring Beijing’s actions against the Uighur Muslim minority as genocide.
“There are very real ways that China is creating challenges for countries like ours, but also challenging international rules and norms that provide for stability in the world, and of course is engaged in practices that are horrible human-rights violations,” the prime minister said.
Those issues were also discussed last week during a Group of Seven leaders call. Trudeau said all democracies must take a stand against them, “not just Canada and the United States.”
But Trudeau also said he recognizes the need for Canada to work with China in areas on which the nations can find common ground.
“It’s a country with whom there will be things that we can, and should be, working together -- whether it’s climate or economic growth. There are lots of opportunities to continue to figure out ways to work together,” Trudeau said.