Beijing withdrew its ambassador from Lithuania and asked Vilnius to do the same, on plans by the European country and Taiwan to establish reciprocal diplomatic offices.
In a statement on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry accused Lithuania of ignoring “China’s repeated statements and articulating possible consequences” by agreeing to such a move with Taiwan.
“The decision blatantly violates the spirit of the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania and seriously undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” the ministry said.
Only 15 countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. Lithuania does not yet have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but maintains increasingly friendly relationships with Taipei. Vilnius has been a increasingly vocal critic From China’s actions toward Taiwan, as well as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, it has withdrawn from China-led multilateral groups and announced vaccine donations to Taiwan.
On July 20, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced that Taiwan and Lithuania would establish respective representative offices to enhance “economic and commercial exchanges, cooperation in various fields, as well as friendships between people.” The offices were expected to be open by the end of the year.
The announcement prompted a warning from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office that Lithuania “not send the wrong signals to the forces behind Taiwan’s independence.”
The establishment of representative offices comes amid some of the deepest tensions between China and Taiwan in decades, with a hypersensitive Beijing refusing to let even the slightest signs of support for Taipei go unchecked. In recent years, acts including displaying the Taiwanese flag on a cake in Fiji have sparked minor diplomatic incidents.
Beijing’s statement on Tuesday also suggested that much of their reaction was based on plans for the Taipei office in Lithuania to include “Taiwan” in its name.
Taiwan has a diplomatic presence in more than 70 countries around the world, but it is usually named after variations in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. The last time it established a European presence in Slovakia was in 2003, opening its representative office in Taipei.
Beijing claims that Taiwan is a rogue province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under what it calls the “one-China principle.” Beijing repeatedly asserts, as it did on Tuesday, that the principle is an international consensus and a “universally recognized norm of international relations,” but this is not accurate.
As part of formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, many countries have their own “one-China policy”, which enshrines the level of recognition that the country accords to the one-China principle. American policy, for example, formally recognizes that there is only one China, but only recognizes that Beijing believes this includes Taiwan.
Lithuania’s ambassador to China, Diana Mickevičienė, told Agence France-Presse that the planned Taiwan office did not violate the “one-China policy,” and pointed to Taiwan’s offices in most EU countries.
“Lithuania is interested in expanding cooperation with Taiwan in many areas of common interest with a particular focus on promoting economic ties and cultural exchanges,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism