China’s foreign ministry says Chinese President Xi Jinping was not criticising Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a day after Xi was seen confronting him over alleged leaks of an earlier meeting at the Group of 20 (G20) summit.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Thursday said: “The video you mentioned was indeed a short conversation both leaders held during the G20 summit. This is very normal. I don’t think it should be interpreted as Chairman Xi criticising or accusing anyone.”
He added that Beijing supports having frank exchanges as long as they are held on an equal basis, and said China hopes Canada will take action to improve bilateral ties.
In video footage published by Canadian broadcasters on Wednesday, Xi and Trudeau can be seen standing close to each other and conversing via a translator at the summit.
“Everything we discussed has been leaked to the paper; that’s not appropriate,” Xi told Trudeau through the interpreter.
Xi then goes on to say “if there is sincerity, we can communicate well with mutual respect, otherwise the outcome will not be easy to tell”.
Trudeau responded to China’s leader that Canada believes “in free and open and frank dialogue” which they will continue to have.
The talks between both leaders at the G20 summit were the first in more than three years. Media reports said Trudeau had brought up “serious concerns” about alleged espionage and Chinese “interference” in Canadian elections during the discussion.
Trudeau said later about the exchange with Xi that “not every conversation is always going to be easy, but it’s extremely important that we continue to stand up for the things that are important for Canadians”.
The talks were kept informal, according to a Canadian government source, explaining why no official readout was published by either side.
“Firstly, I want to stress that China never interferes in the affairs of other countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao said on Thursday.
Mao did not clarify to reporters what Xi meant when he said “that is not appropriate” and whether news of Trudeau bringing up alleged Chinese interference on Tuesday was the reason behind the exchange.
Mao also said that Xi saying: “Otherwise the outcome will not be easy to tell,” to Trudeau was not a threat, as both leaders were engaging in a “normal” exchange and merely “expressing their respective positions”.