China condemns opening of Taiwan office in Lithuania as ‘egregious act’ | Lithuania

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From our friends at: www.theguardian.com

Taiwan has opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania in a diplomatic breakthrough for the island, brushing aside Beijing’s strong opposition to the move which again expressed its anger and warned of consequences.

Taipei announced on Thursday it had formally opened an office in Lithuania using the name Taiwan, a significant diplomatic departure that defied a pressure campaign by Beijing.

Lithuania revealed in July it had agreed to let self-ruled Taiwan open a representative office using its name, the island’s first new diplomatic outpost in Europe in 18 years.

That move prompted a fierce rebuke by China, which withdrew its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded Vilnius do the same, which it eventually did.

Other Taiwan offices in Europe and the United States use the name of the city Taipei, avoiding a reference to the island itself, which China claims as its own territory.

China has stepped up efforts to get other countries to limit their interactions with Taiwan, or cut them off. Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

China condemned the opening as an “extremely egregious act,” saying any move seeking Taiwanese independence was “doomed to fail”.

“We demand that the Lithuanian side immediately correct its wrong decision,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Beijing has also been angered by Lithuania’s decision to open its own representative office in Taiwan, though no firm date has been set for that yet. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the opening of the office would “charter a new and promising course” for ties between it and Lithuania.

There was huge potential for cooperation in industries including semiconductors, lasers and fintech, it said. “Taiwan will cherish and promote this new friendship based on our shared values.”

China’s foreign ministry said the move was a “crude inference” in the country’s internal affairs.

“The Lithuanian side is responsible for all consequences arising therefrom,” it said.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the Lithuania office would be headed by Eric Huang, currently Taipei’s chief of mission in neighbouring Latvia.

“We are very happy that we have the opportunity to be a facilitator and promoter for the relations between Taiwan and Lithuania,” Huang said.

On the significance of using the name Taiwan, he said it was “of course very meaningful”.

“We will not emphasise too much about the geopolitical context. As the representative office of my country, what I am focused on is to promote a substantive relationship.”

The opening of the Vilnius office is the latest sign that some Baltic and central European countries are seeking closer relations with Taiwan, even if that angers China.

Last month a delegation of Taiwanese officials visited Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, sparking anger from Beijing.

The dispute with Lithuania over Taiwan has also sucked in the United States, which has offered its support to Vilnius to withstand Chinese pressure.

Many other countries maintain de facto embassies in Taipei, including several of Lithuania’s fellow EU member states, Britain, Australia and the United States.

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