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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Lithuania: China condemns ‘extremely egregious act’ as Taiwan opens Vilnius office

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Taiwan opened a representation office in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on Thursday, in a move that brought an angry reaction from Beijing.

The self-governing island and Lithuania agreed in July that the Vilnius office would bear the name Taiwan rather than Chinese Taipei — a term often used in other countries in order not to offend Beijing.

“Taiwan’s representative office in Lithuania officially begins operations in Vilnius on November 18, 2021,” the Foreign Ministry said, breaking with the island’s tradition of calling these embassies de facto “Taipei Representative Office”.

Beijing denounced the move as an “extremely egregious act”, saying that any move to gain Taiwan independence was “doomed to fail”.

“There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We demand that the Lithuanian side immediately correct its wrong decision.”

Plans to open the Taiwan office in Vilnius led China this summer to recall its ambassador from Vilnius and demand that Lithuania withdraw its envoy to Beijing.

Beijing also halted freight trains to Lithuania and stopped issuing food export permits.

China says Taiwan is part of its territory and doesn’t have the right to diplomatic recognition, and has vowed to recapture it one day, by force if necessary.

Chinese pressure has reduced Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies to just 15. Taiwan maintains relations with dozens of countries through “representative offices”, including in the United States and Japan, which do not have the status of embassies.

Beijing is working to keep Taipei isolated on the international stage and refuses any official use of the word “Taiwan”, fearing that it will give the island a sense of international legitimacy.

In May, Lithuania announced that it was withdrawing from the 17 + 1 cooperation forum between China and Eastern European states, calling it a “source of division”.

Politicians from the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also pushed for rapprochement with Taiwan.

In 2019, Prague cancelled a twinning deal with Beijing and signed one with Taipei, while a high-profile visit by Czech Senate chief Milos Vystrcil to Taiwan last year infuriated China.

Last month, a delegation of Taiwanese officials visited Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, again angering Beijing.

International support for Taiwan has grown since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power, which ushered in a more authoritarian era for China and a significantly more aggressive approach to Taipei, especially since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen.

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