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The U.S. met one of China’s key demands to improve relations with the release of a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive, paving the way for better ties at the cost of appearing to reward Beijing for what critics have called "hostage diplomacy.”

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, flew to China from Vancouver after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities to resolve criminal charges connected with American sanctions on Iran. Shortly afterward, China released two Canadian citizens — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — who were detained within days of Meng’s December 2018 arrest.

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