China has confirmed it has detained two Canadian men, saying they were detained on suspicion of “endangering national security”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into custody on Monday.
The arrests appear to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a top executive of telecommunications giant Huawei.
Canada’s Global Affairs department on Wednesday said Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who is one of the only Westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had gone missing in China.
“We have been unable to make contact (with Spavor) since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities,” Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Berube said.
“We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we continue to raise this with the Chinese government.”
Mr Spavor is a fluent Korean speaker with longstanding ties to the North through his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange.
Mr Lu said Canada has been informed of the detentions, but declined to say whether the men have been provided with lawyers. He said they are being handled separately.
The two cases ratchet up pressure on Canada, which is holding Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder.
China has demanded the immediate release of Meng Wanzhou, who is wanted by the US.
Asked if detentions were related to Meng’s arrest, Mr Lu said they were being handled according to Chinese law.