China hopes Canada understands consequences of siding with U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Picture of Canadian and Chinese flags taken prior to the meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and China's President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse

BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes Canada understands the consequences of siding with the United States and doing its bidding, China's foreign ministry said on Friday, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called for the release of two Canadians detained in China.

Chinese authorities detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig in December, shortly after Canada arrested China-based Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. warrant.

She faces extradition to the United States on charges she conspired to defraud global banks about Huawei's relationship with a company operating in Iran. She and the company have denied the charges and China has called for her release.

Asked about Pence comments that U.S. President Donald Trump would speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the detained Canadians at a G20 meeting in Japan in June, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang implied Canada was to blame for its problems in China.

"We hope that the Canadian side will come to understand the full consequences of pulling chestnuts from the fire on behalf of the United States, and not inflict more harm on themselves," Geng told reporters, without elaborating.

Pence, who has taken a hard line on China, discussed the detained Canadians with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Thursday, where they also talked about Huawei and China trade issues.

Kovrig and Spavor were formally charged with espionage this month. China has also cut off imports of key Canadian commodities in an effort to press it.

Canada has called the arrests arbitrary.

During his visit, Pence thanked Canada for standing up for the rule of law in detaining Meng.

While Canada says China has made no specific link between the detentions of the two men and Meng's arrest, experts and former diplomats say they have no doubt it is using their cases to pressure Canada.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Ben Blanchard, Robeert Birsel)

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