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U.S.- Canada Show a United Front During Huawei Tech Executive’s Trial

Canada’s Foreign Ministry said Canadian officials were granted consular access Friday to one of the detainees and they are still trying to contact the second.

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Canada
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland takes part in a news conference at the Embassy of Canada in Washington. VOA

The United States and Canada promised a fair judicial process for a Chinese tech executive who was arrested earlier this month in Canada.

In talks at the State Department on Friday, the U.S. and Canadian foreign and defense ministers put on a united front, following a growing diplomatic dispute between the United States and China, in which Canada finds itself in the middle.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland defended her country’s detention of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, saying it was “not a political decision,” but “a matter of following the rules.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was also “respecting the rule of law each step along the way” as it seeks Meng.

Canada arrested Meng at the request of the United States, which says Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. She has been released on bail and is awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

Huawei, China, Canada
A man lights a cigarette outside a Huawei retail shop in Beijing. VOA

Disagreement with Trump

Freeland implicitly pushed back against recent comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said the case could be used as part of wider trade negotiations with Beijing.

“It is also very important for Canada that extradition agreements are not to be used for political purposes,” she said. “Canada does not do it that way and I believe it is obvious that democratic countries, such as our partners in the United States, do the same.”

Freeland also said she was extremely concerned about the fate of two Canadians — businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig — who were detained in China this week, in what is widely seen as a case of retaliation against Canada’s detention of Meng.

Huawei, China, Trump, Canada
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters. VOA

“For me and the prime minister, there are no issues that touch us more personally and immediately than the detention of Canadians outside our country,” Freeland said, adding, “This is a huge priority for our government.”

Canadians ‘ought to be returned’

Secretary of State Pompeo called China’s detention of the Canadian citizens “unacceptable” and said that they “ought to be returned.”

China’s foreign ministry says the Canadian citizens are each being investigated on suspicion of violating China’s national security laws. Analysts and rights groups have called those laws powerful and vague.

In a statement Saturday, the International Crisis Group called for the immediate release of Kovrig, who is their senior expert for North East Asia, based in Hong Kong. The group said Kovrig had always worked transparently and constructively with Chinese authorities.

Mike Pompeo, USA, Canada
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters, Dec. 12, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. VOA

“The real danger to China comes from Michael’s arbitrary arrest and detention, for these will have a chilling effect on people wanting to visit and engage with the country,” said Crisis Group president and CEO Robert Malley.

The statement also noted that since Kovrig had been a Canadian diplomat in China between 2014 and 2016, “diplomatic missions around the globe should be concerned by the suggestion that normal diplomatic work could be grounds for future detention.

Also Read: As Huawei CFO Gets Released On a Bail, Trump Suggests a Trade Deal With China

Canada’s Foreign Ministry said Canadian officials were granted consular access Friday to one of the detainees and they are still trying to contact the second. The Crisis Group confirmed that the Canadian ambassador in Beijing has been able to visit Kovrig. (VOA)

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As U.S.- N.Korea Summit Nears, Path To Denuclearization Remains Unclear

For Trump to actually get a real concrete measurement on denuclearization would allow him to really get more buy-in to keep the process rolling in Washington

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U.S., North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet at the start of their summit on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018. The U.S. should not grant unilateral concessions and sanctions relief to North Korea. VOA

Despite the Trump administration asserting there’s been ongoing progress in talks with North Korea over its commitment to denuclearize, it is unclear what has been achieved ahead of the U.S. announced summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Bruce Klinger, Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, says “that while some speculate that behind the scenes there had been quiet successes between the two sides, in reality, that really hasn’t been the case.”

North Korea’s denuclearization process has been stalled for months with little signs of outward progress, despite a call by South Korean President Moon Jae-in for Washington and Pyongyang to meet again. That’s something that is likely to take place before the end of February, when U.S. President Donald Trump said he’d meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second summit.

“A few days ago Vice President Pence said that [the U.S. is still waiting for North Korea to commit to denuclearization. That’s been consistent with the divergence between the U.S. and North Korean position, not only since last year’s summit but for decades,” said Klinger.

North Korea, Summit, U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escorts Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States, into talks at a hotel in Washington, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

But, that may not be the case, says Rodger Baker, Vice President of Strategic Analysis for Stratfor.

“It seems that the North Koreans are the ones who have been driving the push for this second summit almost more so than the United States,” he said, referencing announcements in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech which “laid out that North Korea saw a need for some change in behavior of the United States or else they would restart their program.”

“[North Korea] reached out to China to make sure that everything was going okay there and that China had their back, and then they reached out to the United States,” Baker assessed.

However, Harry Kazianis, director for Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, told VOA that at this point both sides may have realized there needs to be concrete progress towards denuclearization.

Kazianis said the “trick” now is to construct an interim deal “where both sides can come across as being a winner.”

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FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore, June. 12, 2018.

“That’s a very hard thing to do at any sort of negotiation,” he said.

Trump met with North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Yong Chol for nearly two hours, saying the announcement of the location of the next summit would be made shortly and that Kim was looking forward to their meeting.

“We’ve made a lot of progress that has not been reported by the media but we have made a lot of progress as far as the new denuclearization is concerned,” he said.

Neither Trump nor the White House gave details about the talks.

Getting talks to move forward

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this past September in Pyongyang, “the North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement,” according to the joint declaration issued at the end of the summit.

Currently, what North Korea means by “corresponding measures” remains debatable among experts.

United Nations, U.S.
Members of the United Nations Security Council gather for a meeting on North Korea, Sept. 27, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. VOA

Kazianis suggests that one possible measure the United States could offer would be to make a formal peace declaration or begin the process to issue a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-1953 Korea War.

But Baker said that a peace declaration may not be sufficient.

“The United States has already made basically peace declarations or assertions of having no intent to attack North Korea, and that wasn’t enough,” said Baker.

Furthermore, Kazianis said, “The biggest thing that the North Koreans always talk about their propaganda media statements… is how afraid they are of America’s nuclear assets.”

He suggested that if Washington were to scale the assets back, “I think the North Koreans would be really, really incentivized to do a lot.”

Both Kazianis and Baker added that Pyongyang is also looking for sanction relief.

Although Klinger said many underestimate the complexity involved with reducing or eliminating sanctions, noting the difference between sanctions imposed by the United Nations and those by the United States.

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A train transporting dozens of South Korean officials runs on the rails which leads to North Korea, inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea. VOA

“The U.N. sanctions are,” he said, “is sort of behavior modification, and a lot of the sanctions are trade restrictions, either import or export. In a way, those are more negotiable.”

“The U.S. sanctions are far more difficult to remove because they’re not just focused on the nuclear and missile programs. They are U.S. laws and they focus on human rights violations, criminal activities, such as money laundering, counterfeiting, as well as related to North Korea being on the state-sponsored terrorism list,” he said.

What needs to happen in February?

A criticism of previous summits between Kim and the leaders of South Korea and the United States has been the lack of concrete statements outlining how denuclearization will be achieved.

While Washington may still desire complete, verifiable denuclearization, Baker suggested that may not be “a viable and a realistic outcome anytime soon.”

“So the reality is that what the United States and North Korea and South Korea really are working towards is some way to manage North Korea and to find a way to ease a sense of imminent conflict,” he said.

USA, Trump, North Korea
A man looks at a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands before their meeting in Singapore, in Tokyo, June 12, 2018. VOA

Klinger said a key deliverable from the upcoming second U.S. – North Korean summit should be a commitment “to flesh out a comprehensive, integrated agreement which very clearly delineates everyone’s responsibilities.”

The problem he said, is that past agreements have been “short and vague enough that everyone can claim their own interpretation, and it doesn’t clearly identify what everyone has to do… and they all had very weak verification.”

Kazianis remains optimistic that the upcoming summit will make progress on the denuclearization front since both sides have a lot to offer in terms of concessions.

Also Read: North Korea Working For Second Summit With US to Achieve Results, Says Kim Jong-un

“For Trump to actually get a real concrete measurement on denuclearization would allow him to really get more buy-in to keep the process rolling in Washington and keep the people that are completely against this process on the left and the right, maybe to buy in a little bit more,” he said.

Neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet to officially announce the date or location of the second U.S. – North Korean summit, although some speculate it may take place in Vietnam. (VOA)