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Canada foreign minister says eyes wide open when it comes to normalizing China ties

09/26/2021 | 01:31pm EDT

TORONTO, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Canada's "eyes are wide open" when it comes to normalizing its relationship with China, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday, after three years of rocky ties with Beijing since the arrest and Friday's release of a Huawei Technologies executive.

Garneau told CBC News the government is now following a four-fold approach to China: "coexist," "compete," "co-operate," and "challenge."

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, flew back to China after reaching an agreement with U.S. prosecutors to end a bank fraud case against her. That resulted in the scrapping of her nearly three year extradition battle in a Canadian court.

Soon after Meng flew to China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor - the two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng's arrest in December 2018 - were released by Beijing.

"There was no path to a relationship with China as long as the two Michaels were being detained," Garneau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Garneau received the two Canadians on Saturday when they arrived in the western Canadian city of Calgary after spending more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement.

Trudeau, who won a third term on Sept. 20 election after a tight race, had vowed to improve ties with China since he first became prime minister in 2015, building on his father's success in establishing diplomatic ties with China in 1970.

But even before Meng's arrest, Canada's repeated questioning of China's human rights issues has irked Beijing, and the two countries have failed to come closer.

China has always denied any link between Meng's extradition case and the detention of the two Canadians, but Garneau said, "the immediate return of the two Michaels linked" it to Meng's case in a "very direct manner."

Garneau also said he didn't think the timing of the men's return had anything to do with the timing of the federal election.

"I think it just worked out that way." (Reporting by Denny Thomas; editing by Grant McCool)

© Reuters 2021
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