China downgrades diplomatic relations with Lithuania over Taiwan
By Norihiko Shirouzu and Andrius Sytas
BEIJING / VILNIUS, November 21 (Reuters) – China degraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania on Sunday, expressing deep discontent with the Baltic state for allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy there and exacerbating the ensuing tensions in Washington.
China regards Taiwan, autonomous and democratically governed, as its territory without the right to state traps and has stepped up pressure on countries to degrade or sever their relations with the island, even unofficial ones.
Beijing had previously expressed its anger this summer when Lithuania – which has formal relations with China and not Taiwan – allowed it to open an office in the country under the name Taiwan. China recalled its ambassador in August.
Other Taiwanese offices in Europe and the United States use the name of the city of Taipei, avoiding any reference to the island itself. However, Taiwan’s representative office in Lithuania eventually opened on Thursday.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a blunt statement that Lithuania had ignored China’s “solemn position” and basic standards of international relations.
The move “undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs,” setting a “bad precedent at the international level,” he said.
Beijing said relations would be downgraded to charge d’affaires level, a step below that of ambassador.
“We urge the Lithuanian side to correct their mistakes immediately and not to underestimate the steadfast determination and unwavering determination of the Chinese people to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” I
No matter what Taiwan does, it can’t change the fact that it is part of China, the ministry said.
RIGHT TO COOPERATE
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry expressed “regret” over China’s decision in a statement on Sunday.
“Accepting Taiwanese representation in Lithuania is based on economic interests,” he said.
“The Lithuanian once again confirms that he sticks to the ‘One China’ policy, but at the same time, he has the right to expand cooperation with Taiwan and to accept and establish non-representative representations. diplomatic relations to ensure the practical development of connections, as has been done by many other countries.
Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, and that the People’s Republic of China has never ruled it and is not allowed to speak on its behalf.
The Taiwan Mainland Council denounced China’s “rudeness and arrogance”, saying Beijing has no right to comment on something that is not an internal Chinese matter and purely a Taiwan-to-Taiwan matter. and Lithuania.
Taiwan has been encouraged by the growing international support in the face of military and diplomatic pressure from China, especially from the United States and some of its allies.
Washington rejects attempts by other countries to interfere in Lithuania’s relations with Taiwan, US Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya said at a press conference in Vilnius on Friday.
Washington has offered its support to Vilnius to resist Chinese pressure and Lithuania will sign a $ 600 million export credit agreement with the US Export-Import Bank on Wednesday.
Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Taipei could lose another ally to Beijing after the Honduran presidential election later this month, where a candidate backed by the main opposition parties leads opinion polls.
If elected, Xiomara Castro has pledged to establish official relations with China.
(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Cheng Leng in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Michael Perry, William Mallard and David Clarke)
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