China downgrades ties with Lithuania over Taiwan office row

Beijing, Nov 21 (EFE).- China Sunday said it decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Lithuania after the Baltic nation opened a Taiwan representative office “in disregard of strong protest and repeated representations” from Beijing.

“The Chinese side expresses its strong indignation and protest against this move, and decides to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the chargé d’affaires level,” a foreign ministry statement said.

The opening of the Taiwanese representative office in Lithuania “openly creates a false impression of ‘one China, one Taiwan’ in the world.”

It “renounces the political commitment made by Lithuania in the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs,” the statement said.

The foreign ministry urged the Lithuanian side to “immediately put right its mistake and not to underestimate the Chinese people’s strong resolve, will, and capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The Lithuanian government must bear all the ensuing consequences.”

The ministry warned the Taiwan authorities, saying the island “is never a country.”

“No matter how ‘Taiwan independence’ forces try to misrepresent facts and confound black and white, the historical fact that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China cannot be changed,” it said.

“Attempts to seek foreign support for political manipulation will prove a dead end.”

The Taiwan office in Lithuania commenced its operation in Vilnius on Thursday.

Taiwan foreign ministry appointed Eric Huang, currently Chief of Mission in Latvia, as the first representative for Lithuania.

“The opening (of the office) will charter a new and promising course for the bilateral relations between Taiwan and Lithuania,” Taiwan foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lithuania established diplomatic with Beijing in 1991, shortly after achieving independence from the Soviet Union.

Only 15 nations recognize Taiwan, even as Taipei has embassy equivalent representative offices in many countries with similar arrangements in Taipei.

The embassy-like bureaus are called representative offices to avoid identifying Taiwan as a separate territory from China.

Taiwan has been governed autonomously since 1949, even as China claims sovereignty of the island and considers it a rebel province.

China has not ruled out the use of force to achieve reunification. EFE


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