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BEIJING / VILNIUS, Nov 21 (Reuters) – China cut its diplomatic relations with Lithuania on Sunday, expressing strong dissatisfaction with the Baltic state after Taiwan opened a de facto embassy there, escalating a dispute it has sparked in Washington.
China sees self-governing and democratically governed Taiwan as its territory without the right to trap a state and has increased pressure on countries to cut or sever their relations with the island, even informally.
Lithuania expressed regret over China’s move, but defended its right to expand cooperation with Taiwan, respecting Beijing’s “One China” policy, and said its foreign minister would go to Washington to discuss trade and projects. of investment.
Taiwan, meanwhile, reported that two Chinese nuclear-capable H-6 bombers had flown south of the island on Sunday, part of a model of what Taipei sees as military harassment created to put pressure on the government.
Beijing had already expressed its anger this summer with Lithuania – which has formal relations with China and not Taiwan – after allowing the island to open an office in the country using the name Taiwan. China withdrew its ambassador in August.
Other Taiwanese offices in Europe and the United States use the Taipei city name, avoiding reference to the island itself. However, the Taiwanese Representation Office in Lithuania finally opened on Thursday.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a scathing statement that Lithuania had ignored China’s “solemn stance” and basic norms of international relations.
Beijing said relations would be lowered to the level of the charge d’affaires, one notch below the level of ambassador.
The movement “undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and severely interfered in China’s internal affairs,” she said, setting a “bad precedent internationally.”
“We call on the Lithuanian side to correct its mistakes immediately and not to underestimate the determination and determination of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
No matter what Taiwan does, it cannot change the fact that it is part of China, he said.
VISIT TO WASHINGTON
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Sunday that the opening of the representative office, which does not have an official diplomatic status, should come as no surprise to anyone.
“Our government program says Lithuania wants a more intensive economic, cultural and scientific relationship with Taiwan,” she said. I want to emphasize that this step does not mean any conflict or disagreement with the “One China” policy.
The Prime Minister of Poland, Lithuania’s largest neighbor in the EU, said on Sunday that he supported the position taken by Vilnius.
A European Commission spokesman said the EU executive “has stood by Lithuania in the face of sustained austerity measures from China” since the summer.
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 has no right to speak for it.
The Taiwan Continental Affairs Council denounced China’s “rudeness and arrogance”, saying Beijing had no right to comment on something that was not a Chinese domestic issue and simply an issue between Taiwan and Lithuania.
Taiwan has been encouraged by growing international support in the face of Chinese military and diplomatic pressure, particularly from the United States and some of its allies.
Washington opposes other countries’ efforts to interfere in Lithuania’s relations with Taiwan, US Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya told a news conference in Vilnius on Friday. Read more
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis will travel to Washington on Tuesday, where he expects to discuss opening up the US market to Lithuanian goods and developing joint investment projects, the ministry said in a statement Sunday.
Landsbergis will meet with Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment Jose W. Fernandez “to discuss opportunities to expand and deepen mutually beneficial economic ties,” he said.
Washington has offered support to Vilnius to withstand Chinese pressure, and Lithuania will sign a $ 600m export credit agreement with the US Export-Import Bank on Wednesday.
Only 15 countries have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Taipei could lose another ally to Beijing after Honduran’s presidential election later this month, with a candidate backed by the main opposition leading the polls.
If elected, Xiomara Castro has vowed to establish formal relations with China.
Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Cheng Leng in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Edited by David Clarke and Raissa Kasolowsky
Our standards: Principles of Trust by Thomson Reuters.
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