White House knew in advance about Huawei arrest

US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, on Nov 27, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House said Thursday (Dec 6) it knew in advance that Canada planned to arrest an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei on the same day as a summit between Washington and Beijing.

National security advisor John Bolton said he did not know if President Donald Trump was also aware of the operation to detain Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US request as she was changing planes in Vancouver.

"I knew in advance. This is something that we get from the Justice Department," Bolton told National Public Radio.

"And these kinds of things happen with some frequency. We certainly don't inform the president on every one of them," he said.

Trump held talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over dinner Saturday (Dec 1) on the sidelines of a summit in Argentina in a long-awaited meeting aimed at resolving rising trade tensions.

Trump flew back to Washington calling the meeting "amazing and productive," with the United States agreeing to hold off on a new round of tariff hikes as the two sides open three months of trade negotiations.

The arrest has cast a shadow over the summit, with China demanding Meng's release and saying she has not violated any laws.

Bolton declined to discuss specifics over the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, saying it was a matter for law enforcement.

"But we've had enormous concerns for years," Bolton said, "about the practice of Chinese firms to use stolen American intellectual property, to engage in forced technology transfers, and to be used as arms of the Chinese government's objectives in terms of information technology in particular."

"So not respecting this particular arrest, but Huawei is one company we've been concerned about," he said.

Senator Ben Sasse earlier linked the arrest to US sanctions on Iran, which Trump is trying to squeeze economically after withdrawing from a denuclearisation deal.

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