(Adds language from Chinese response, Pompeo comment)
OTTAWA, Aug 22 (Reuters) - China’s embassy in Canada said on Thursday that bilateral ties were suffering “gross difficulties,” and demanded Ottawa free Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.
Relations have been icy since Meng was detained in Vancouver last December on a U.S. warrant. China has since charged two Canadians with spying and halted imports of canola seed and meat products from Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said his government had no intention of backing down in the dispute and would defend Canada’s interests.
In a response to Trudeau’s speech, the embassy told Reuters that China would also always defend its interests.
“China adheres to the principle of equality between all countries, no matter big or small. ... China-Canada relations now suffer gross difficulties and the Canadian side knows very well the root cause,” the embassy said in an email.
“Canada should release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately and ensure her safe return to China, and bring bilateral relations back onto the right track,” the embassy said.
Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Ottawa for talks on Thursday.
Pompeo assured Trudeau that American officials were working to free the two Canadian men.
“Please do note that our team is focused on helping those two Canadians be released,” Pompeo said. “It’s wrong that they are being held.” (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)