China says Canada's Harper to visit before APEC summit

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 29, 2014 4:07 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit China next week ahead of a multilateral summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, as the two countries seek to mend ties strained by rows over cybersecurity and spying.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) will be held in Beijing from Nov. 7-11. Harper's office said earlier this week he had canceled plans to attend the forum in the wake of attacks by homegrown radicals last week in Ottawa that killed two soldiers.

Harper's office said he would be in Ottawa for the country's Nov. 11 Remembrance Day holiday, which honors the country's war dead. The holiday coincides with the APEC summit.

Wang Yi said there are discussions through "diplomatic channels" on resolving the scheduling clash and that "Canada has a very strong intention to attend APEC". China recognizes the day is very important to Canada, he added.

"The Canadian government, especially Prime Minister Harper, pays great attention to the APEC meeting in Beijing, has made all preparations for the meeting and has decided to make a formal visit to China before the meeting," Wang said in a briefing to reporters.

Ties between the two countries were damaged when China detained a Canadian couple living near its sensitive border with North Korea on suspicion of espionage in August. No formal charges have been brought against the couple.

Wang said the case was being handled in accordance with Chinese law.

Kevin and Julia Garratt have been held separately for more than 80 days at a remote facility in the border city of Dandong. Their son has said they are routinely interrogated by state security agents, but the subject of the questioning and the allegations against the couple are unclear.

Authorities have repeatedly denied the family's requests for access to legal counsel since the Garratts were detained August 4.

The detention of the Canadian couple came less than a week after Canada accused Chinese hackers of breaking into a key computer network, a charge Beijing strongly denied.

In September, Canada ratified a foreign investment protection agreement with China after a two-year delay in a move that could help ease tensions with China.

(Reporting By Ben Blanchard, Writing by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)