September 5, 2019 / 9:24 PM / 18 days ago

Canada accepts nomination of new China envoy as dispute rages

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has accepted the nomination of a new Chinese ambassador, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Thursday, describing the move as a step forward amid a major dispute between the two nations.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Cong Peiwu is seen with then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) at Beijing International Airport in Beijing, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool/File Photo

Her remarks are another indication that diplomatic relations might be warming up between the two nations after a crisis erupted last December.

China, furious that Canadian police arrested a senior Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL] executive on Dec. 1 on a U.S. warrant, has blocked imports of meat products and canola seed from Canada and charged two Canadian men with spying.

Freeland was speaking a day after Ottawa unveiled business consultant Dominic Barton as its new envoy to Beijing, filling a post that had remained empty for eight months.

Beijing recently nominated foreign ministry official Cong Peiwu to be the ambassador in Ottawa.

“China has now announced its new ambassador to Canada, so this is a positive step,” Freeland told a televised news conference in Waterloo, Ontario.

“Both countries now have new ambassadors who have been accepted. And that does give us another step forward in this relationship,” she continued.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang earlier said Cong would take up his post in due course.

“China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties. The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows it clearly,” he told a regular media briefing.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday reiterated his government’s position that China’s detention of the two Canadians was unacceptable.

“Using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals - either international or domestic - is something that is of concern not just to Canada, but to our allies,” he told an editorial board meeting with the Toronto Star newspaper.

Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler

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