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China charges two Canadians with espionage

China charges two Canadians with espionage
Michael Spavor (C-R), a Canadian citizen imprisoned in China, was charged with espionage on Friday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA

June 19 (UPI) -- Chinese authorities have charged two Canadians with espionage.

Prosecutors in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong said Friday Michael Spavor, a Canadian businessman who has met with Kim Jong Un, has been charged with spying and illegally exposing Chinese state secrets to foreign countries. Spavor was arrested while possibly en route to South Korea in 2018.

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The arrest of Spavor, who organized NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman's visit to Pyongyang, came after the detention of Meng Wangzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei in Vancouver, at the request of the United States.

The prosecutors' office in Beijing also issued a statement on Friday, charging former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig with exposing state secrets to foreign governments. Kovrig was detained in 2018.

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Chinese authorities did not disclose details of the charges.

The Chinese decision comes nearly a month after Meng was dealt a critical blow in Canadian court. Meng is fighting extradition to the United States, where is wanted for alleged violations of sanctions against Iran,

U.S. authorities have said Meng committed bank fraud involving HSBC -- distorting Huawei's ties to a firm in Iran, thereby placing HSBC at risk of fines and penalties for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. British Columbia's Superior Court Associate Chief Justice Health Holmes ruled last month the legal standard of double criminality had been met.

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Meng's approach "would seriously limit Canada's ability to fulfill its international obligations in the extradition context for fraud and other economic crimes," Holmes had said.

Tensions over Huawei, trade and COVID-19 have dominated U.S.-China relations, but the two sides have recently resumed bilateral dialogue. This week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday at a regular press briefing the two countries discussed the "issue of the Korean Peninsula" and agreed a "political resolution" would be in the national interest of both sides.

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North Korea may have sent its troops to the DMZ this week, according to South Korean authorities.

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