China downgrades its diplomatic ties with Lithuania over Taiwan issue

BEIJING: China downgraded its diplomatic ties with Lithuania on Sunday (Nov 21), expressing strong dissatisfaction with Vilnius for allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the Baltic state, raising tensions in a spat that has also dragged in Washington.

China views the self-ruled and democratically governed island as its own territory with no right to the trappings of a state, and has stepped up pressure on countries to downgrade or sever their relations with the island, even non-official ones.

Beijing had already expressed anger that Lithuania – which has formal relations with China and not Taiwan – let Taiwan open its office in the country, and recalled its ambassador in August.

The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania opened on Thursday. Other Taiwan offices in Europe and the United States use the name of the city Taipei, avoiding a reference to the island itself, something that has further angered Beijing.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a brusque statement that Lithuania ignored China’s “solemn stance” and the basic norms of international relations in allowing Taiwan to set up its representative office in Lithuania.

The move “undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs”, creating a “bad precedent internationally”, it said, adding relations would be downgraded to the level of charge d’affaires, a rung below ambassador.

“We urge the Lithuanian side to correct its mistakes immediately and not to underestimate the Chinese people’s firm determination and staunch resolve to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

No matter what Taiwan does, it cannot change the fact that it is part of China, the ministry added.

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