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Politics Harper will skip APEC summit to attend Remembrance Day ceremony

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will skip the APEC meeting so that he can attend the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is skipping a major Asia-Pacific summit in China this November because of the killings of two Canadian soldiers on home soil last week.

Instead, Mr. Harper will remain in Canada for Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, when the victims of the attacks will be commemorated.

The decision means the Prime Minister will also be able to sidestep questions on relations with China, which have been strained recently by allegations of hacking and spying.

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Mr. Harper had planned to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting Nov. 10 and 11 before last week's attacks on Canadian Armed Forces personnel, but a plan to hold bilateral talks with the Chinese, one of Canada's most important trading partners, had already fallen through.

The Harper government publicly blamed Beijing for hacking Canadian government computers in July and weeks later the Chinese detained two ex-patriate Canadians for allegedly stealing state military secrets.

Canadian authorities saw Beijing's taking of Kevin and Julia Garratt into custody as reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada suspected of masterminding the electronic theft of U.S. fighter jet secrets. Washington is pressing Canada to extradite Mr. Su to the United States.

In September, The Globe and Mail reported the Canadian government had threatened to have the Prime Minister back out of a high-profile meeting with the Chinese leadership during the APEC summit if Beijing did not release the Garratts.

Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed Oct. 20 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., by an extremist who ran the solider over with a car. Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot dead Oct. 22 by a gunman at the National War Memorial.

Mr. Harper will attend both of these soldiers' funerals and will commemorate Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Canada finally enacted a long-delayed foreign-investor protection agreement with China in September, a move Beijing watchers interpret as an effort to ease strained relations ahead of Mr. Harper's visit to the APEC summit.

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In August, China's ambassador to Canada pleaded for calm, saying "bumps and grumps between countries" should be prevented from "kidnapping our bilateral relations."

In an opinion article for The Globe and Mail, ambassador Luo Zhaohui sketched out the complexity of the bilateral relationship in trade and education before appealing to Canada not to take retaliatory action.

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