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China says two Canadians suspected of harming state security

BEIJING: China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that two Canadian nationals detained in China are suspected of engaging in activities endangering national security, and that both cases are under investigation.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters the legitimate rights and interests of the two Canadians had been safeguarded.

Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, as well as former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group, were detained this week.

Spavor known for ties to North Korean leader

Canadian Michael Spavor has jet skied with Kim Jong Un, felt the ground shake from a North Korean nuclear test, and now it appears, been detained by Chinese authorities.

Spavor, a business consultant with deep ties to North Korea, is being investigated on suspicion of endangering state security, Chinese state media reported. The Canadian government says it has been unable to contact him and phone calls, messages and emails to Spavor went unanswered on Thursday.

When North Korean leader Kim launched a bid to engage the world and attract international investment this year, Spavor was uniquely positioned to play a role.

As one of the few Westerners with personal ties to the North Korea government and Kim himself, Spavor has been trying to drum up international interest in investing in North Korean economic projects, in anticipation of sanctions being eased amid warming ties.

Spavor is best known in the region for his relationship with Kim Jong Un, and his role in facilitating a visit to Pyongyang by American basketball star Dennis Rodman in 2013.

“That was the most amazing experience I’ve had in my life .. We hung out for three days,” Spavor told Reuters in a 2017 interview.

Images from that time show Spavor sharing cocktails with Kim on board one of his private boats, after they had been jet-skiing in the bay next to Wonsan, one of Kim’s pet economic development areas.

In 2015, Spavor was involved in efforts to attract more than $150 million in foreign funds for Wonsan, including $39 million to fund a new brewery.

In his latest posts on social media on Monday, Spavor said he was on his way to the South Korean capital of Seoul for new consulting work and meetings with friends.

His friends say he never arrived.

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