The White House blasted China on Monday for allowing confessed National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to leave Hong Kong for Russia while he is being sought by U.S. authorities.
"We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."
Mr. Snowden's attorney said Monday that Beijing told Mr. Snowden that he should leave Hong Kong and that authorities would not stop him if he did. He arrived in Moscow on Sunday; U.S. authorities believe he is still in Russia.
The White House also said it has notified other countries that it is seeking Mr. Snowden's return to the U.S.
Mr. Carney said that U.S. relations with China must be based on trust and that the Obama administration is expressing its "frustration and disappointment with Hong Kong and Chinese authorities."
"If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem," Mr. Carney said. "And that is a point we are making to them very directly."
Mr. Carney said U.S. officials are now in contact with the Russian government seeking Mr. Snowden's forcible return.
"We have a strong law enforcement cooperative relationship with the Russians," he said. "And that relationship has resulted in the past in us returning criminals to Russia. And you know, we are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States."
U.S. authorities including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had been in contact with Hong Kong officials since June 10 seeking the "provisional arrest" of Mr. Snowden, who has admitted leaking classified government data to the media about NSA surveillance programs.
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