Taiwan opens Lithuania workplace as China condemns ‘egregious’ move

Taiwan has opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania in a diplomatic breakthrough for the self-ruled democratic island that China, which described the move as “egregious”, claims as its personal territory.

Taipei introduced on Thursday it had formally opened the workplace within the Baltic state – its first in Europe in 18 years – in defiance of a stress marketing campaign from Beijing.

Taiwan’s overseas ministry stated the opening of the “Taiwan Representative Office in Lithuania” would “charter a new and promising course” for joint ties, noting the large potential for cooperation, notably in expertise.

“Taiwan will cherish and promote this new friendship based on our shared values,” the ministry stated.

In August, China demanded Lithuania withdraw its ambassador to Beijing and stated it will recall China’s envoy in Vilnius after Taiwan introduced the identify for the workplace. Its outposts elsewhere on the earth are normally referred to as Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices, with China chafing at any use of the phrase Taiwan for fear it lends a way of legitimacy to the island.

China responded angrily to Thursday’s opening and threatened unspecified penalties.

“The Lithuanian government, in disregard of the Chinese side’s strong objection and repeated dissuasion, has approved the establishment of the so-called ‘Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania,’” Beijing stated in a press release.

“The Chinese government expresses strong protest over and firm objection to this extremely egregious act. The Lithuanian side shall be responsible for all the ensuing consequences.”

China has put rising stress on different nations to restrict cooperation with Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen was first elected in 2016, and solely 15 nations now have formal diplomatic ties with the island.

Beijing has additionally been angered by Lithuania’s determination to open its personal consultant workplace in Taiwan, though no agency date has been set.

Many different nations preserve de facto embassies in Taipei, together with a number of of Lithuania’s fellow European Union member states, Britain, Australia and the United States.

Taiwan’s new workplace will likely be headed by Eric Huang, who’s at present 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 advised Agence France-Presse information company.

On the importance of utilizing the identify Taiwan, he stated 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 workplace is a sign that whereas Lithuania needs to have interaction extra intently with Taiwan, that doesn’t imply it’s shifting away from European Union coverage on China.

The use of Taiwan moderately than Taipei for the identify of the consultant workplace, “indicates that the intention on both sides is to reflect that bilateral relations are comprehensive including, economic, research and development, cultural, political aspects, which is possible and does not require nor indicate a move away from Lithuania’s adherence to the EU’s one China policy,” Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, a postdoctoral researcher in Taiwan and former political adviser within the European Parliament advised Al Jazeera. “Vilnius wants to engage China in a 27+1 format, and expand ties with Taiwan at the same time.”

Lithuania is one in all quite a lot of Baltic and central European nations which have proven they’re ready to hunt nearer relations with Taiwan — even when it upsets China.

Politicians within the Czech Republic and Slovakia have additionally pushed for nearer ties with Taiwan.

In 2019, Prague cancelled a sister-city settlement with Beijing and signed one with Taipei, whereas a high-profile go to to Taiwan final 12 months by Czech senate chief Milos Vystrcil infuriated China.

Last month a delegation of Taiwanese officers visited Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, sparking anger from Beijing, whereas a seven-member delegation from the European Parliament made a historic journey to Taiwan.

In May, Lithuania introduced it was leaving China’s 17+1 cooperation discussion board with central and jap European states, calling it “divisive”.

“We believe that the economic relations established with democratic states are more sustainable and long-lasting, they are more based on the principle of the rule of law, therefore they are more in line with Lithuania’s interests,” Lithuanian overseas minister Gabrielius Landsbergis advised reporters on Thursday.

With reporting by Erin Hale in Taipei

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