US President Donald Trump discussed what the White House described as China's "wrongful detention" of two Canadians in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a spokesman said.
Washington's latest comment on the issue, the first in several months, came as trade relations between China and the US continued to deteriorate, with Beijing threatening retaliation if Trump fulfils his threat to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods on September 1.
The two men also discussed the ongoing protests in Hong Kong during their conversation on Friday, a day after Trump had appeared to link a "humane" resolution to the crisis with a trade deal.
Relations between China and Canada have worsened drastically since December, when Vancouver police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, on a US arrest warrant.
Meng is currently awaiting a decision on whether she will be extradited to the US on fraud charges relating to alleged breaches of American sanctions against Iran.
After Meng's arrest, China detained two Canadians, accusing them of involvement in stealing state secrets.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained in December and formally charged in mid-May with spying.
Kovrig was charged with gathering state secrets, while Spavor was charged with stealing and providing secrets for overseas forces.
Previous media reports have said that Kovrig was being questioned multiple times a day and the lights in his cell were kept on 24 hours a day.
Canada has insisted on their release and US Vice-President Mike Pence previously voiced support for the detained men at an appearance with Trudeau in late May.
Early in July, Trudeau said he was "confident" that Trump had kept his promise to raise the case during a meeting with Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. The Chinese foreign ministry later warned Canada it was "naive" to think its "so-called allies" could help.
As part of the dispute, China has banned imports of a number of Canadian agricultural products.
Trump and Trudeau also discussed the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, according to a statement from the Canadian prime minister's office on Friday.
The months of mass protests in Hong Kong that have paralysed the Asian financial hub also threaten to further complicate Beijing's ongoing trade war with Washington after Trump weighed in, tweeting: "Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!"
Trudeau and Trump also reaffirmed their support for the new North American free-trade agreement and welcomed work towards its ratification, the Canadian statement said.
It also said Trump and Trudeau would continue their discussions on "current challenges in the global economy" and other issues at the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.
Last week and again on Sunday, members of the Chinese People's Armed Police were seen conducting exercises across the border from Hong Kong in Shenzhen, adding to speculation that force could be used to quell the protests in the city.
The US State Department has said it is "deeply concerned" that the armed police could be deployed in Hong Kong and urged Beijing against such a move.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland recently told a news conference in Toronto that this was a "turbulent moment", and that the Canadian government was working on contingency plans to help Canadians in Hong Kong, according to national broadcaster CBC.
Tensions also flared in Toronto on Saturday when a group supporting the Hong Kong protests clashed with a rival pro-Beijing group.
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