particularly in the United States, is an expanded opening of the border on the horizon?

There is good news with respect to vaccination on both sides of the border. But we’re also seeing a resurgence of variants right now. And in Ontario, and down here in the United States, there are places where there is more transmission than ever.

So we’re constantly assessing the situation. Hopefully, we will be able to move forward with some reopenings. But it’s all going to depend on the facts on the ground.

Canadians have a long list of things they’d like to see from the United States. What does the Biden administration want to see from Canada?

obviously the environment.

But I also think the administration looks to us as the key partner on the international stage. You know, this is an administration that is very intent on rebuilding alliances with like-minded countries.

Both countries agree that the government of China jailed two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a telecommunications executive from China, at the request of the U.S. government. How has this affected our relationship with the American government?

I believe the U.S. administration understands this, but I’m not sure Americans understand this: The arbitrary detention is at its core retaliation, it’s an intimidation tactic. It’s designed to pressure Canada into walking away from our legal commitments to the United States under our extradition treaty.

Is it working?

Rather than weakening the Canada-U.S. partnership, I think that this hostage diplomacy tactic has drawn us closer together in defense of human rights and in defense of the rule of law. These tactics aren’t just about two people. There’s a broader objective at play that requires all similarly minded democracies to stand together.


nytcanada@nytimes.com.

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Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández Faces Questions in Drug Trial’s Wake

He received briefcases stuffed with cash. He held clandestine meetings with drug traffickers in a rice factory. He sought to invest in a cocaine lab. He vowed to flood the United States with drugs. And he did all of this while pursuing the highest office in Honduras.

These were some of the accusations made about President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras in a federal courtroom in New York this month.

Mr. Hernández, who has repeatedly denied any association with drug traffickers, was not standing trial in the case and has not been charged with any crimes. Rather, Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, a Honduran citizen, was the defendant; he was convicted on Monday on all counts, including conspiracy to traffic cocaine and arms possession.

most trying to reach the United States.

Credit…U.S. District Court

The trial added to the growing mound of evidence gathered by federal prosecutors in recent years that casts Mr. Hernández as a key player in Honduras’ drug-trafficking industry. The proceedings led analysts to believe that formal charges against Mr. Hernández himself may not be far away.

“It’s yet another nail in his coffin,” said Eric L. Olson, director of policy at the Seattle International Foundation and an expert on Latin America. “But more than what this means for Juan Orlando, this sends another message to the people of Honduras that there’s no future for them, and what’s the point of hanging around?”

The swirl of corruption allegations around Mr. Hernández has been building for years.

In 2017, international observers documented many irregularities in his election to a second term, prompting weeks of violent protests around the country. The opposition said he should not have been on the ballot in the first place, arguing that Mr. Hernández had unfairly stacked the Supreme Court with his supporters, who then lifted the nation’s constitutional ban on re-election.

More recently, federal prosecutors in the United States have sought to show that the president built a symbiotic relationship with drug traffickers who provided financial support for his political ascent in return for protection from prosecution.

was convicted in federal court in New York on drug trafficking charges and is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

The accusations made by American government lawyers over the years have made for a jarring contrast with the United States’ continued political support for Mr. Hernández, who has cast himself as a willing partner in the effort to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In testimony during the trial this month, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, who once ran a violent drug gang called Los Cachiros, testified that in 2012 he gave $250,000 in cash to Mr. Hernández — transferring it by way of the president’s sister, Hilda Hernández — in exchange for the promise that he would not be arrested and extradited to the United States. Mr. Hernández, at the time, was running for his party’s presidential nomination.

Another witness, a Honduran accountant who testified under the pseudonym José Sánchez, said he witnessed Mr. Hernández accepting bribes from Mr. Fuentes and negotiating access to the drug trafficker’s cocaine lab during meetings at the offices of Graneros Nacionales, the biggest rice producer in Honduras.

“I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Mr. Sánchez said of an encounter in 2013, when Mr. Hernández was running for president on his party’s ticket. “I was looking at the presidential candidate meeting with a drug trafficker.”

Mr. Sánchez said that in those meetings, Mr. Hernández was twice given bribes of cash stuffed into briefcases, one with $15,000 and the other with $10,000. The accountant said he was personally responsible for counting the cash: $20 bills wrapped in rubber bands.

Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School.

Mr. Hernández has denied the allegations of corruption and has argued that the testimony in the Fuentes case, as in the trial of his brother, came from unreliable witnesses who were trying to punish him for his efforts to clean Honduras of drug trafficking. Moments after the jury returned its verdict on Monday, he took to Twitter to defend himself, citing what he called an “unprecedented 95 percent reduction” in drug trafficking across Honduras.

The trial played out in Honduras against the backdrop of presidential and congressional campaigns that have further underscored the degree to which corruption riddles the political system.

Charles Call, an associate professor of peace and conflict resolution at American University in Washington.

Following the verdict this week, Hondurans expressed a sense of fatigue, and widespread cynicism that anything would change.

“We do not live in a state of law,” said Edwin Kelly, 35, a data analyst from La Ceiba who lamented “the power of the narco-president.”

The latest revelations might, though, drive even more migrants to head north.

There are many reasons more Honduras have been leaving in recent years, among them insecurity and poverty, said Mr. Olson, of the Seattle International Foundation.

“But there’s a meta-story, which is the failure of government,” he said “We need to give the people of Central America a sense of hope. And that starts with fighting corruption and ending this ridiculous theft of Hondurans’ future.”

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Microsoft to Ease Workers Back to the Office Starting Next Week: Live Updates

wrote on the company blog.

Microsoft also released on Monday the results of a survey of that it says shows the work force has changed after a year of working remotely. In the survey of more than 30,000 full-time and self-employed workers, 73 percent said they wanted flexible remote work options to continue, and 46 percent said they were planning to move this year now that they could work remotely.

“There are some companies that think we’re just going to go back to how it was,” Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said in an interview. “However, the data does seem to indicate that they don’t understand what has happened over the last 12 months.”

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said the Fed’s research into central bank-issued digital currencies is early and exploratory — and that U.S. officials would only consider issuing a digital dollar if they believed there was a clear use and if the idea had widespread public and political buy-in.

“You can expect us to move with great care and transparency,” Mr. Powell said on Monday at a Bank for International Settlements event on central bank innovation. “We would not proceed with this without support from Congress.”

Mr. Powell said that at this stage, the Fed is looking into whether there is even a need for a central bank digital currency — a technology-based instrument with official government backing. Payment systems are already speeding up and banks offer digital money in the form of bank deposits, he noted, so the need for a central bank version is an open question.

“Does the public want, or need, a new digital form of central bank money to complement what is already a highly efficient, reliable and innovative payments arena?” he said.

Central bank digital currency could offer benefits, Mr. Powell said — perhaps laying the groundwork for a more efficient, more inclusive payment system, and maintaining the dollar’s competitive position as the leading global currency. But there are also big risks. Digital currencies could bring cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the possibility of money laundering, and they might disrupt the stable relationship between customers, banks and the Fed.

“We’re sort of purveyors of stability,” Mr. Powell said Monday.

The Fed’s Washington-based board has begun experimenting with central bank digital currencies, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is collaborating with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on complementary research.

“The focus really is on developing and understanding the capabilities and limitations of the relevant technologies,” he said. “It’s not an attempt to create a prototype.”

Mr. Powell said regulation is not “where it needs to be” when it comes to stable coins — a type of cryptocurrency which has value tied to an outside asset. He dismissed the possibility that private stable coins could substitute for central bank money.

And when it comes to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that aren’t backed by some value anchor, Mr. Powell said they are risky assets as opposed to dollar-like money.

“Crypto assets, they’re highly volatile — see Bitcoin — and therefore not really useful as a store of value,” Mr. Powell said. “It’s more a speculative asset, that’s essentially a substitute for gold, rather than for the dollar.”

A group of junior bankers at Goldman Sachs assembled a presentation about working conditions at the Wall Street bank that circulated on social media.
Credit…Emon Hassan for The New York Times

Last week, a presentation by a group of junior bankers at Goldman Sachs went viral on social media, in which they complained about what they described as workplace abuse, including 100-hour weeks.

The DealBook newsletter’s inbox has been overflowing with reactions, notably from current, former and aspiring investment bankers. Here’s what some had to say — most requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences — edited and condensed for clarity:

Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange in Ankara. An unexpected change at the head of Turkey’s central bank caused a steep drop in the lira’s value.
Credit…Murad Sezer/Reuters

Turkey’s currency tumbled on Monday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired the head of the central bank, who had been in the job just four months and had pursued policies aimed at taming inflation. The Turkish lira plunged 10 percent against the U.S. dollar.

The removal of Turkey’s central bank chief, Naci Agbal, signals a return to the unorthodox policies that Mr. Erdogan has long favored, such as cutting interest rates to lower inflation, but which most economists regard as counterproductive. Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly meddled in the central bank’s activities and over the years traders have dumped the lira.

Since his appointment in November, Mr. Agbal has raised the central bank’s benchmark interest rate from 10.25 percent to 19 percent in an effort to slow the overheating economy, control inflation and lure in foreign investment. He had succeeded in pulling the lira up from its record low. The most recent increase in the benchmark rate was on Thursday and he was fired on Friday.

The annual inflation rate was officially 15.6 percent in February but is probably much higher.

The new central bank chief, Sahap Kavcioglu, a university professor and former member of Turkey’s National Assembly, said in a statement that he would continue to fight inflation. But on Monday, the lira was trading at about 7.93 to the dollar, compared with 7.22 on Friday. The plunge in value was a sign that currency traders expect him to bow to pressure from Mr. Erdogan to cut rates, worsening the inflation problem and pushing the country of 82 million people closer to economic collapse.

“We have abandoned our cautiously optimistic view on the lira,” Piotr Matys, a strategist at Rabobank wrote in a note. Mr. Kavcioglu’s comments suggest he is clearly in favor of lower interest rates to stimulate growth, he added.

Carlos Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan, is a fugitive after fleeing Japan, where he was facing charges of alleged financial misconduct, which he had denied.  
Credit…Hussein Malla/Associated Press

Tokyo prosecutors on Monday charged two Americans with helping Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chief, jump bail in Tokyo, where he was awaiting trial on four counts of financial wrongdoing.

Japanese prosecutors said in an indictment that the two men, Michael Taylor, 60, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor, 27, assisted Mr. Ghosn’s efforts to escape the country, helping him flee to Turkey and then on to Lebanon, where he has been beyond the reach of Japanese law.

American officials arrested the men last May in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, they were extradited to Japan, where they have been held in a Tokyo detention center while undergoing questioning by prosecutors. A third man believed to have aided Mr. Ghosn’s escape remains at large.

The Japanese authorities have accused Michael Taylor of helping Mr. Ghosn travel by train to the western city of Osaka, through security checks at a private jet terminal and then onto a plane bound for Turkey. Once there, Mr. Ghosn transferred to a flight bound for Beirut. Peter Taylor assisted in planning for the escapade, visiting Mr. Ghosn several times before the escape, officials say.

Mr. Ghosn and his son, Anthony Ghosn, paid more than $1.3 million to the Taylors and a company they controlled, U.S. prosecutors have said in court filings.

Mr. Ghosn’s case raised international concerns about what some critics call Japan’s system of “hostage justice,” which includes lengthy detentions of criminal suspects without charge. While in the United States, the Taylors fought a long legal battle to prevent their extradition, with their lawyers arguing that they could be subjected to harsh conditions in a Japanese jail.

Jessie Astbury Allen with her daughters Mae, 7, and Livia, 12. They left China more than a year ago; Ms. Astbury Allen’s husband is still there.
Credit…Francesca Jones for The New York Times

For the past year, people trying to go to China have run into some of the world’s most formidable barriers to entry. To stop the coronavirus, China bans tourists and short-term business travelers outright, and it sets tough standards for all other foreigners, even those who have lived there for years.

The restrictions have hampered the operations of many companies, separated families and upended the lives of thousands of international students, report Sui-Lee Wee and Keith Bradsher for The New York Times. Global companies say their ranks of foreign workers in the country have dwindled sharply.

As deadlier and more infectious virus variants appeared in other countries in recent months, China introduced onerous new requirements.

Officials regard travel restrictions as crucial to their success in containing the virus. Since the outbreak started, China has reported more than 101,000 Covid cases. Although questions have been raised about the accuracy of the numbers, they are far lower than in the United States, where 29.8 million people have tested positive for the virus.

China’s tough restrictions, including its recent ban on dependents, have exacted an emotional toll on some families who have been forced to live apart for months.

In February of last year, Jessie Astbury Allen took her two young daughters to England to wait out the outbreak as it swept across China, hoping they would reunite with her husband in Shanghai by Easter. It was a plan she would come to regret.

“I knew in my gut we were doing the wrong thing, but it was too late,” she said, weeping, as she described how she felt on landing at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Abraham Sanchez, a Sacramento musician, put $1,200 of his stimulus money last week into his Robinhood trading account.
Credit…Salgu Wissmath for The New York Times

For a decade before the pandemic, small investors accounted for roughly a tenth of trading activity in the stock market. But in the last year, they have become responsible for close to a quarter, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.

The speculative appetite of small investors may seem at odds with an economy still reeling from a pandemic that has killed more than half a million Americans, decimated jobs and snuffed out businesses and livelihoods. But one of the biggest tools deployed by the U.S. government to cushion the economic blow — stimulus payments — is also driving a huge surge in investing by small traders, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank recently estimated that as much $170 billion from the latest round of stimulus payments could flow into the stock market. They conducted a survey of retail traders in which respondents said they planned to put roughly 40 percent of any payment they received — or $2 of every $5 — into the stock market. Traders between the ages of 25 and 34 said they expected to put half of their stimulus check into stocks.

“That could lead to a bit more mania, speculation in the market,” said Patrick Fruzzetti, managing director and partner at Hightower Advisors, an investment firm. The “stimmies,” he said — using a popular online term for stimulus checks — will go into people’s trading accounts, and “they will trade.”

Volkswagen can spread the cost of developing new technologies over millions of vehicles and undercut Tesla on price.
Credit…Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

In October 2015, a month after Volkswagen confessed to rigging diesel cars to conceal illegally high emissions, shellshocked company executives gathered in the brick-clad high-rise executive office building topped with a giant VW logo that looms over the carmaker’s main factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The executives authorized development of a collection of mix-and-match components that would serve as the basis for a range of electric models including sedans, S.U.V.s and vans, Jack Ewing reports for The New York Times. The standardized platform, called the Modular Electrification Toolbox, could also be used by other company brands, including Audi.

The platform will allow Volkswagen to exploit the big advantage it has over Tesla: size. With 665,000 employees and sales of 9.3 million vehicles last year, Volkswagen is the second-largest carmaker in the world after Toyota. It can spread the cost of developing new technologies over millions of vehicles and undercut Tesla on price.

The commitment Volkswagen made then is paying off now as the company rolls out a line of vehicles developed from the ground up to run on batteries, with more interior space and more appeal than adaptations of gasoline vehicles.

By 2025, Volkswagen will be able to produce electric vehicles for less than it costs to build a gasoline or diesel car, UBS analysts wrote in this month’s report. They cautioned that Tesla retained a significant lead in battery technology and autonomous driving software.

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Two Americans Are Charged With Helping Carlos Ghosn Flee

Tokyo prosecutors on Monday charged two Americans with helping Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chief, jump bail in Tokyo, where he was awaiting trial on four counts of financial wrongdoing.

Japanese prosecutors said in an indictment that the two men, Michael Taylor, 60, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor, 27, assisted Mr. Ghosn’s efforts to escape the country, helping him flee to Turkey and then on to Lebanon, where he has been beyond the reach of Japanese law.

American officials arrested the men last May in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, they were extradited to Japan, where they have been held in a Tokyo detention center while undergoing questioning by prosecutors. A third man believed to have aided Mr. Ghosn’s escape remains at large.

The Japanese authorities have accused Michael Taylor of helping Mr. Ghosn travel by train to the western city of Osaka, through security checks at a private jet terminal and then onto a plane bound for Turkey. Once there, Mr. Ghosn transferred to a flight bound for Beirut. Peter Taylor assisted in planning for the escapade, visiting Mr. Ghosn several times before the escape, officials say.

Mr. Ghosn and his son, Anthony Ghosn, paid more than $1.3 million to the Taylors and a company they controlled, U.S. prosecutors have said in court filings.

Mr. Ghosn’s case raised international concerns about what some critics call Japan’s system of “hostage justice,” which includes lengthy detentions of criminal suspects without charge. While in the United States, the Taylors fought a long legal battle to prevent their extradition, with their lawyers arguing that they could be subjected to harsh conditions in a Japanese jail.

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Michael Kovrig, Canadian Accused of Spying, Is Tried in China

A Chinese court on Monday tried a former Canadian diplomat on accusations of spying, Canadian officials said, the second such trial in recent days and one that will most likely intensify tensions among China, Canada and the United States.

A court in Beijing presided over the trial of the former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, who was detained by the Chinese authorities in late 2018, shortly after Canada arrested a top executive at the Chinese technology firm Huawei at the request of the United States.

The trial was held in secret, according to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, with the Chinese authorities barring foreign diplomats and journalists from attending. In a show of support for Mr. Kovrig, more than two dozen diplomats representing 26 countries, including Canada and the United States, tried to gain access to the courtroom in Beijing on Monday, only to be turned away by security officials.

Mr. Kovrig’s friends, family and former co-workers have said he is innocent.

“From the moment he was detained, the political nature of his case has been clear,” said Richard Atwood, interim president of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization where Mr. Kovrig worked as an adviser. “Michael should be released immediately so he can return home to his loved ones.”

appeared before a court on Friday in Dandong, a northeastern city. That verdict would be announced at a later date, the court said.

“The arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for more than two years now is completely unacceptable,” Jim Nickel, a top official at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing who tried to gain access to the courtroom on Monday, said in a statement.

The prosecutions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor have unfolded against a backdrop of growing tensions over China’s increasingly assertive behavior on the global stage. Critics have labeled China’s action “hostage diplomacy” and have called on Canada and the United States to work to secure the two men’s release.

Canadian and American officials have described the men’s detention as arbitrary and part of China’s efforts to secure the release in Canada of the Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the founder of Huawei. Ms. Meng faces sweeping fraud charges in the United States, which is seeking her extradition.

marred by tensions, and the two sides left without any joint statement of their willingness to work together.

American officials on Monday denounced China’s decision to go forward with the trials. “The charges are a blatant attempt to use human beings as bargaining leverage,” a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Beijing said in a statement. “The practice of arbitrary detention to exercise leverage over foreign governments is completely unacceptable.”

China has defended its handling of the cases, saying that the Canadians broke Chinese law.

“Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently in accordance with the law and fully guarantee the lawful rights of the individuals concerned,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing in Beijing on Friday.

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Japan Charges Father-Son Team With Aiding Ghosn Escape

TOKYO—Japanese prosecutors on Monday formally charged an American father-son team with aiding the December 2019 escape of former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Michael Taylor, 60 years old, and Peter Taylor, 28, were charged with harboring a criminal, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of three years.

The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and fought unsuccessfully to block their extradition to Japan. They arrived in Japan on March 2 and since then have been held in a Tokyo jail undergoing interrogation by prosecutors.

Prosecutors said the Taylors helped hide Mr. Ghosn as he traveled from his Tokyo house by bullet train to the Osaka international airport, where he was hidden in a musical-equipment box and flown out of the country on a private jet. At the time, Mr. Ghosn was out on bail and facing trial over financial charges, which he has denied.

The Taylors haven’t denied helping Mr. Ghosn escape, but their U.S. representatives have said that what they did wasn’t a crime under Japanese law.

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U.S. Extradites North Korean From Malaysia

The U.S. extradited a North Korean accused of money laundering from Malaysia, Pyongyang said Friday, as the regime said it would cut ties with Kuala Lumpur over the decision.

It was the first successful extradition of a North Korean by the U.S., experts said, in a case that could strengthen Washington’s hand in enforcing sanctions.

“This will likely make the North Koreans feel less secure in operating in countries that have closer ties to the U.S. than them,” said Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Policy Institute in Seoul. “Because now they know they can be sent to the U.S.”

The accused North Korean, Mun Chol Myong, is wanted by U.S. authorities on suspicions of money laundering and violating U.N. sanctions, according to Malaysia’s foreign ministry.

Sanctioning North Korea

North Korea denied the accusations against Mr. Mun, saying he was engaged in legal business activities. “It is absurd fabrication and sheer plot to argue that he was involved in ‘illegal money laundering,’ ” Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said Friday.

Accusing Malaysia of a hostile act, Pyongyang said it would immediately sever diplomatic ties with the Southeast Asian country. North Korea also said the U.S. would pay a price.

An attorney for Mr. Mun in Malaysia declined to comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment. The Treasury Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Washington asked Kuala Lumpur for his extradition in May 2019, according to Malaysia’s foreign ministry.

The U.S. has sought to cut off North Korea from the global financial system through sanctions to prevent it from furthering its nuclear weapons program. Sanctions enforcement, though, has been imperfect. North Korea conducts much of its illicit money-earning schemes, such as cyberhacking or exporting sanctions-banned goods, in countries where the U.S. has no jurisdiction or in those that are considered adversaries of Washington such as China or Russia.

Sanctions monitors have long suspected North Korea of using Malaysia as a hub for illicit money-earning schemes. In multiple reports, a U.N.-appointed panel of experts have mentioned Malaysia Korea Partners, a company based in Malaysia that earned cash for North Korea.

The company created a global network that undertook projects in Africa, Hong Kong, and the Middle East, allegedly in an effort to evade sanctions. It has carried out services in information technology, construction, mining, coal trading, security and transportation, the U.N. has said.

Just days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, North Korea unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile and labeled the U.S. as its biggest enemy. WSJ’s Timothy Martin explains why Pyongyang wants to be at the top of Washington’s agenda. Photo: KCNA/Shutterstock

Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have been deteriorating since Kim Jong Nam, the elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed there in 2017 with an internationally-banned nerve agent. The U.S. and South Korea have accused Pyongyang of being behind the killing, which it has denied.

North Korea’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Malaysia may in part be an indication that Pyongyang is no longer able to effectively use the country to evade sanctions, said Woo Jung-yeop, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, a think tank near Seoul. “If they still felt they could earn meaningful money there, they’d likely wanted to have kept their embassy,” he said.

The U.N. has said North Korean diplomats based in foreign countries, including Malaysia, have participated in sanctions evasion work for the cash-strapped Kim regime. Malaysia and North Korea have had diplomatic relations since 1973.

Friday’s statement also comes as relations between the Biden administration and North Korea have had a rocky start.

North Korea has rebuffed U.S. outreach for talks over the phone and email since mid-February, American officials have said. Instead, top Pyongyang officials lashed out at the U.S. in public statements this week as President Biden’s secretaries of state and defense were visiting Japan and South Korea.

On Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader, warned the Biden administration against “causing a stink.” On Thursday, Choe Son Hui, a senior Pyongyang diplomat, said North Korea wasn’t interested in returning to long-stalled nuclear negotiations with Washington. The Biden administration, meanwhile, is nearing completion of a policy review on North Korea.

Write to Andrew Jeong at andrew.jeong@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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China’s Espionage Trial of Canadian Citizen Ends, Verdict Awaited

HONG KONG—A Chinese court has tried a Canadian citizen on espionage charges in a case at the center of a diplomatic standoff with the U.S. and Canada, concluding the hourslong hearing without issuing a verdict.

Michael Spavor, who was charged with “probing into and illegally providing state secrets” to foreign actors, attended the closed-door trial on Friday with his lawyer, according to a statement from a municipal court in the northeastern city of Dandong, where the proceedings took place.

Mr. Spavor, who has spent more than two years in custody, couldn’t be reached. Efforts to reach his lawyer weren’t immediately successful. The Canadian Embassy in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Spavor, who ran a Dandong-based nonprofit, is one of two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities in December 2018 and later charged with espionage offenses. Their detention is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive from Chinese telecom-gear giant Huawei Technologies Co. at the behest of the U.S. The other Canadian, Michael Kovrig, is scheduled to stand trial in Beijing on Monday.

These cases have locked China into a high-stakes diplomatic standoff with Canada and the U.S., with officials trading barbs over the detentions and accusing each other of taking hostages to advance political goals.

Mr. Spavor’s trial was closed to the public because state secrets were involved, the Dandong Intermediate People’s Court said in its statement, issued three hours after the scheduled start of Mr. Spavor’s hearing. It said a verdict would be issued later at an unspecified date.

Diplomats from at least nine Western countries, including Canada and the U.S., sought access to the trial but were unsuccessful, according to a person briefed on the matter. Chinese courts typically try national-security cases behind closed doors.

Legal experts say Chinese authorities could delay the verdict as long as they want. While Chinese law typically requires courts to issue verdicts within two to three months of accepting a case, time extensions are allowed for major and complicated cases, among other circumstances.

A news website of the Communist Party’s law-enforcement commission has accused Mr. Spavor of supplying intelligence to Mr. Kovrig, a researcher on leave from Canada’s diplomatic service. Chinese authorities have said that Mr. Kovrig faces charges of “probing into state secrets and intelligence” on behalf of foreign actors.

Mr. Spavor’s nonprofit, Paektu Cultural Exchange, organized academic, tourist and business trips to North Korea. Mr. Kovrig, an analyst with Brussels-based conflict monitor International Crisis Group, was detained while he was visiting Beijing from his Hong Kong base and drafting a research report on North Korea, friends say.

The two men were detained separately on the same day in December 2018. Days earlier, a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official had threatened Canada with “severe consequences” for the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who was detained earlier that month while transiting through Vancouver. The U.S. has accused Ms. Meng of misleading banks about Huawei’s ties to a subsidiary that did business in Iran, leading those banks to clear transactions that potentially violated international sanctions. Huawei and Ms. Meng have denied any wrongdoing.

The two Canadians have had limited contact with their families and the outside world since their detention, largely restricted to supervised visits with Canadian consular officials and their China-based lawyers.

Canadian officials have accused Beijing of detaining Messrs. Spavor and Kovrig as leverage in efforts to secure Ms. Meng’s release. Chinese officials have denied that the cases against the two Canadians were spurred by the arrest of Ms. Meng, who is on bail in Vancouver, where she faces extradition proceedings.

Foreign diplomats say Beijing is unlikely to let Messrs. Kovrig and Spavor go unless Ms. Meng is released. The U.S. Justice Department had been discussing a deal with Ms. Meng that would allow her to return to China in exchange for admitting wrongdoing, though those discussions have since stalled.

Mr. Spavor’s hearing coincided with talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska, the first high-level, in-person meeting between the two governments since President Biden took office. It wasn’t clear if the two Canadians’ cases were discussed at the meeting.

Write to Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Michael Spavor, Canadian Accused of Spying, Stands Trial in China

The issue of the Canadians was expected to come up as top Biden administration officials met their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage starting on Thursday. Friends and relatives of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig have called on President Biden and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to take action to secure their release.

American officials said on Friday that they were “deeply alarmed” by China’s decision to go forward with the trials of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Canada in calling for their immediate release,” a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Beijing said in a statement.

Any compromise with Beijing could be elusive, as China has not shown signs of backing down, instead using its prosecution of the two men to project an image of strength and demand that the United States withdraw its extradition request for Ms. Meng.

“Beijing is making it clear that the two Michaels will be put on trial with Chinese characteristics: closed to the public and to the media,” said Diana Fu, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. “Its actions leave little doubt about who the ultimate decider of the Canadians’ fate will be — the Chinese Communist Party, not Biden, not Trudeau.”

The imprisonment of the two men has spurred calls in Canada for tougher action against China. According to a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute, a leading polling company, only 14 percent of Canadians have a favorable view of China. A majority view the Chinese government’s freeing the two Canadians as a prerequisite to resetting relations.

“There is a backlash against China in Canada, and the trial will only harden attitudes,” said Gordon Houlden, director emeritus of the University of Alberta China Institute. He added that the case of the two Michaels underlined the limited leverage of a middle power like Canada when faced with an economic and political behemoth like China.

Legal experts and human rights activists have denounced China’s treatment of the Canadians, accusing Chinese officials of resorting to “hostage diplomacy.” The two men, held in separate prisons in northern China, have been largely cut off from the world and at times forced to go months without visits from diplomats. They have had limited access to defense lawyers.

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North Korea Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Malaysia Over U.S. Extradition

SEOUL — North Korea on Friday severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia after that country’s highest court agreed to extradite a North Korean man accused of money laundering to the United States, a major coup in Washington’s efforts to choke Pyongyang’s illicit trade.

In a ruling last week, Malaysia’s federal court approved the extradition of a North Korean citizen, Mun Chol-myong, rejecting his argument that the case against him was politically motivated and that he was caught in the cross hairs of diplomatic enmity between North Korea and Washington.

Washington has sought to bring Mr. Mun to the United States to face criminal charges that he laundered money through front companies and violated international sanctions by helping to ship prohibited luxury goods from Singapore to North Korea on behalf of the regime in Pyongyang. Mr. Mun was arrested in 2019 in Malaysia, where he had moved from Singapore in 2008.

Mr. Mun was the first North Korean extradited to the United States to face a criminal trial. His extradition is part of Washington’s efforts to crack down on what it has described as widespread sanctions-evading activities by North Korean businessmen and diplomats. Over the years, the United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea, seeking to strangle the country’s access to foreign currency, which it has used to help finance its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Two women hired by agents from Pyongyang smeared his face with the internationally banned VX nerve agent. North Korea denied involvement.

Credit…Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After the incident, the two countries expelled ambassadors from their capitals.

North Korea’s severance of ties with Malaysia will deepen its diplomatic isolation. After the North conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in 2017, in defiance of United Nations resolutions, several countries, including Mexico, Spain and Kuwait, expelled North Korean ambassadors.

Thae Yong-ho, a minister in the North Korean Embassy in London, defected to Seoul in 2016 with his wife and two sons. Jo Song-gil, a senior North Korean diplomat who disappeared from Italy in late 2018, also ended up in Seoul, according to South Korean lawmakers briefed on the matter. Ryu Kyeon-woo, a senior North Korean diplomat who fled his posting in Kuwait in 2019, has turned up in South Korea, too.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III met with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul on Thursday. Afterward, the two allies said they would coordinate their approaches toward North Korea as the Biden administration finalizes its policy review in the next few weeks. Washington said it has tried to establish a diplomatic channel since last month, but that North Korea has not responded.

Choe Son-hui, first vice foreign minister of North Korea, said on Thursday that North Korea felt no need to respond to “the U.S. delaying-time trick,” and that dialogue would only be possible after the United States ended its “hostile policy.”

During his hearing in Malaysia, Mr. Mun, who is in his 50s, denied money laundering or issuing fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his home country. His lawyer called him “a pawn caught in the rivalry between the U.S. and North Korea.”

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