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Politics Pompeo says Meng Wanzhou not a bargaining chip in U.S.-China trade war

Mr. Pompeo, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, said the United States will stick to the legal process it set in motion in late 2018 when it asked Canada to detain Ms. Meng at Vancouver International Airport.

SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected the accusation from Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s legal team that she is being used as a bargaining chip and dismissed the possibility the United States might drop its extradition request for her as part of a deal to end a trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Separately, he suggested that Canada or other allies that allow Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. gear into their next-generation 5G networks might end up losing access to some U.S. intelligence information if Washington believes it’s at risk of sharing data on insecure networks.

Mr. Pompeo, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, said the United States will stick to the legal process it set in motion in late 2018 when it asked Canada to detain Ms. Meng at Vancouver International Airport.

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U.S. President Donald Trump raised the possibility in December of intervening in the Meng case if it could help secure a trade agreement with China. He said he’d step in “if I think it’s good for the country.”

Ms. Meng’s lawyers this week filed legal papers accusing Washington of using her as a “bargaining chip” in the escalating China-U.S. trade war.

Mr. Pompeo flatly rejected the charge during a Thursday press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

During a news conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Huawei executive detained in Canada was 'not a bargaining chip' in the U.S. trade war with China. Reuters

Later, in the Globe interview, he elaborated, saying the United States makes extradition requests only after gathering sufficient evidence to support them.

He also repeatedly pushed back against the idea Washington might intervene in the legal process to free Ms. Meng.

“We’re always crystal clear about how we make extradition requests, not just here but all around the world. Attorney-General [William] Barr and his team at the Department of Justice will make decisions ensuring that we don’t ask if we don’t believe we have not just allegations but sufficient evidence to deliver on the things that we said or the reasons for the extradition,” Mr. Pompeo said.

“This case won’t be any different than the way we’ve handled scores and scores of extradition matters all across the last – goodness – several decades … both here in Canada and around the world.”

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He showed impatience over being asked repeatedly whether Ms. Meng might be freed by U.S. intervention instead. “It’s a legal process. That’s the fourth time you’ve asked. You’re welcome to ask a fifth time and I’m happy to give you the same answer,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Ms. Meng is free on $10-million bail while she awaits an extradition trial set to begin in early 2020. She is living in one of her multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver while wearing an electronic tracking device and being monitored by a security company.

The Americans allege Ms. Meng helped the company violate U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. She has been charged in the United States with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

The Meng case is unfolding as the Canadian government mulls a U.S. request to bar Huawei equipment from next-generation 5G networks. Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are part of an intelligence-sharing network called Five Eyes. Australia has already barred Huawei from its 5G network and New Zealand blocked the first request from one of its wireless carriers to install the company’s equipment in a 5G network. Canada and Britain have yet to make a decision.

Mr. Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was asked whether the United States might restrict the information it shares with Canada if Ottawa allows Huawei gear into the 5G networks Canadian telecom carriers are building.

The Americans say Huawei answers to China’s ruling Communist Party and could be compelled to help Beijing spy or sabotage Western networks. Article 7 of China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law says that Chinese companies must “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work" when asked.

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“The United States will always ensure that wherever it places its national security information, it’s doing so into networks that it trusts. So to the extent that there were networks that weren’t trusted networks, the United States, whether it’s the Department of Defence, or [an] intelligence committee or State Department information that requires a certain level of security, we just won’t do it,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We won’t expose it to those networks that we believe the Chinese government could have access to.”

Asked a second time to clarify whether Canada could find itself restricted from some U.S. intelligence, Mr. Pompeo added: “Any time we are dealing with our good, close national security partners, we want to make sure that our networks are things that they trust – that they can feel confident when they put information into a system that is ours, that it will be protected. We demand the same thing of those countries. And when that doesn’t happen, we have to got to make a different decision.”

He said, however, that when it comes to Ottawa’s verdict on Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks, “I am confident that they will make a decision [that is] good for the Canadian people.”

Mr. Pompeo said he believes Canadians wouldn’t want to be using networks that could be exploited by China’s Communist Party. “Canadian citizens are rightly worried about their privacy and protecting their data and their information and so permitting the Chinese Communist Party to control a company that would transit that information is not good for the Canadian people.”

Relations between Canada and China have soured since Ms. Meng’s arrest. Beijing seized former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor shortly after. China also responded by ceasing purchases of Canadian commodities including canola seed, soybeans, pork and beef.

On Thursday, Mr. Pompeo twice pushed back against what he considered questions that implied moral equivalence between the U.S. and Canadian actions on Ms. Meng and China’s apparent backlash, including the arrests of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.

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At the Ottawa press conference, Ms. Freeland avoided a question on whether Canada has asked the U.S. to drop its extradition request to help secure the release of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. She instead stressed the Canada-U.S. border wouldn’t work without the extradition treaty.

Mr. Pompeo took aim at the question, telling the reporter she “took the Chinese line” by connecting Ms. Meng’s arrest with the detention of the two Canadian men.

“The arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens in China is fundamentally different,” he said, adding that connecting the two is “what China wants to talk about.”

“They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they’re morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.”

Later, in the interview, asked about the economic pain China is inflicting on Canada, he said the U.S. and Canada have done nothing wrong.

“These things have happened because the Chinese government has chosen to behave in a certain way. Not because of an American action, nor a Canadian action. And to suggest some moral equivalence is really unfortunate."

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With a report from Mike Hager in Vancouver

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