By JIM KUHNHENN and LARA JAKES, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. assumes National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden remains in Russia, and officials are working with Moscow in hopes he will be expelled and returned to America to face criminal charges, President Barack Obama's spokesman said Monday. The White House said a decision by Hong Kong not to detain Snowden has "unquestionably" hurt relations between the United States and China.
Snowden left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow but then apparently did not board a plane bound for Cuba as had been expected, and his whereabouts were a mystery. The founder of the WikiLeaks secret-spilling organization, Julian Assange, said he wouldn't go into details about where Snowden was but said he was safe.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries, Assange said.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. was expecting the Russians "to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."
"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," he added. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem. And that is a point we are making to them very directly."
Snowden had been in hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China. The United States formally sought Snowden's extradition but was rebuffed by Hong Kong officials who said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws. The Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong.
Said Carney: "We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. 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."
The dual lines of diplomacy — harsh with China, hopeful with the Russians — came just days after Obama met separately with leaders of both countries in an effort to close gaps on some of the major disputes facing them.
Snowden arrived in Moscow over the weekend, but his whereabouts were unknown on Monday. The U.S. has revoked his passport.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that it would be "deeply troubling" if Russia or Hong Kong had adequate notice about Snowden's plans to flee to a country that would grant him asylum and still allowed him leave.
"We don't know, specifically, where he may head, or what his intended destination may be," Kerry said, responding to a question during a news conference in New Delhi where he was discussing bilateral issues between the U.S. and India.
Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP writers Philip Elliott, Matthew Lee and Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov and Max Seddon in Moscow, Kevin Chan in Hong Kong and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
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