A Sino-Canadian row reared its head on Monday after one of two Canadians jailed by China for nearly three years claimed he was unwittingly used for intelligence gathering and is seeking compensation from Ottawa.

Beijing's 2018 to 2021 detentions of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig had plunged bilateral relations into a deep freeze.

Spavor reportedly now blames Kovrig, with whom he had provided information on North Korea, unaware that it would be shared with Canada and its intelligence partners, for their incarceration.