Canada PM will not recall envoy to China over criticism on Huawei remarks

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 on December 5, 2017, in Beijing. Fred Dufour/Pool via REUTERS

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said he would not recall the ambassador to Beijing who has been blasted by the opposition for saying a Chinese executive being held in Canada could make a good case against extradition to the United States.

Opposition politicians accuse John McCallum of political interference in the matter and insist he be fired.

After Huawei Technologies Co Ltd chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested on a U.S. warrant last month, China detained two Canadian men on national security grounds.

“Our focus is entirely on getting those Canadians home safe ... and making a change would not help release those Canadians a day sooner,” Trudeau told reporters in New Brunswick when asked whether he would recall or punish McCallum.

McCallum’s comments to Chinese-language media, which were broadcast on Wednesday, were the most explicit sign yet from a Canadian official that Meng might not be extradited.

“Canada will always remain a country where the rule of law is at the very core of the judicial system ... which of course includes the capacity of people to defend themselves,” Trudeau said in televised remarks.

McCallum, like Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, has stressed the importance of the long-term relationship with China. Before the dispute erupted last month Ottawa had been debating the merits of opening free trade talks with China.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by David Gregorio