China has confirmed that it has detained two Canadian men in what appears to be retaliation for the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer.
Entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into custody on Monday, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
One of the Canadians detained, Michael Spavor, has longstanding ties to North Korea through his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange.
He helped bring NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang in 2013 and has organised a number of tours and joint cultural projects with the North since then.
He is also one of the only westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Acquaintances said he was due in Seoul on Monday, but never showed up.
He said they were being detained on suspicion of “endangering national security”.
It follows Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Canada on 1 December at the request of the US. Beijing has expressed outrage over Ms Meng’s detention, ratcheting up tensions in the US-China trade dispute.
The US accuses Meng Wanzhou of misleading multinational banks about Iran transactions
The 46-year-old Chinese executive, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei and the company’s chief financial officer, is alleged to have used Hong Kong company Skycom to access the Iranian market in deals that violated US sanctions.
On Wednesday, she was granted bail by a Canadian court, confining her to Vancouver and its suburbs while she awaits possible extradition.
The list of strict conditions of her release pending the outcome of the extradition case is lengthy, and includes electronic monitoring and the surrender of her passports.
Canadians arrests raise the stakes in an international dispute that further threatens relations.