WASHINGTON – Canada's foreign minister warned top Trump administration officials on Friday not to politicize the pending extradition of Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou.
"Canada understands the rule of law and extradition ought not ever to be politicized or used as tools to resolve other issues," Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign affairs minister, told reporters after a closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Freeland was alluding to President Donald Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that he might intervene in Meng's case if it would help resolve the bitter trade war between the U.S. and China. Canada arrested Meng based on an extradition request from the Trump administration. The Department of Justice has accused her of secretly selling equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Meng's detention was a flashpoint during Friday's high-level meeting, which was supposed to focus on the longstanding diplomatic and security alliance between the U.S. and its northern neighbor. The session also included Mattis' Canadian counterpart, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The four officials held a joint news conference after the closed-door talks. While they all said the meeting focused on the strong U.S.-Canadian alliance, the Meng matter clearly caused some tension.
Since Meng's detention, China has arrested two Canadian citizens – businessman Michael Spavor and a former Canadian diplomat, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig – sparking fears of a broader confrontation.
And Trump's suggestion that he might use Meng as a bargaining chip in the trade talks has further complicated the matter.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this week, Trump said: “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made ... what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”
At the news conference, Freeland was asked if America's request for Meng's arrest and extradition had put Canada in the middle of the U.S.-China trade war and if Canada was being "used" by the U.S. in that spat.
Freeland said she disagreed with the premise of the question, and she emphasized that Canada was following the "rule of law" and its international treaties in the extradition process. Meng is currently out on bail awaiting further extradition proceedings in Canada.
"The detention of Ms. Meng was not a political decision on Canada's part," she said. "For Canada, this is a question of living up to our international treaty obligations and following the rule of law."
She said she raised the issue with Pompeo and Mattis, albeit diplomatically. "We talked about our shared values and one of them is that both countries ... follow the rule of law," Freeland told reporters.
Pompeo called on China to release the two Canadian citizens, calling it "unacceptable" and "unlawful." But he did not address Trump's comments about intervening in the matter, saying simply that he could not "say much" about that process.
Contributing: Thomas Maresca
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canada to Trump administration: Don’t play politics with Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou extradition case