China has blasted Lithuania, warning it will “pay a price” for allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital Vilnius.
China has slammed Lithuania after the Baltic country allowed Taiwan to open representative office — a de facto embassy — in its capital Vilnius.
The People’s Republic of China is furious the new office will have the title “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei”.
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province, despite never having ruled the island. Taiwan has been governed separately since the Chinese Nationalists retreated to the island at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Beijing interprets any move that gives international legitimacy to Taiwan as an insult.
China officially downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania on Sunday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Lithuania must “pay a price” for flouting the “one China” principle.
China is now considering taking punitive measures targeting economic co-operation and trade with Lithuania.
Mr Zhao said China would take all the necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and protect its core interests, firebrand Beijing-backed newspaper Global Times reported.
“The Chinese government had to lower diplomatic relations between the two countries … to safeguard its sovereignty and the basic norms of international relations,” the ministry said in a statement announcing the downgrade to the charge d’affaires level.
“The Lithuanian government must bear all consequences that arise from this.”
It added that Lithuania had “abandoned the political commitment made upon the establishment of diplomatic relations” with China.
In an editorial, the Global Times said “punishing” Lithuania was like “swatting a fly”.
“Lithuania is just a clown that plays bravado and loyalty. China will definitely deal a heavy blow to it,” the Beijing-backed paper wrote.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said this month it would be inconceivable” for Australia not to join the United States should Washington take action to defend Taiwan.
Lithuania slammed as ‘crazy, tiny country’
Earlier this year the Global Times warned Lithuania would “pay the price for its evil deed of breaking international rules” and described it as a “crazy, tiny country full of geopolitical fears”.
Lithuania has a population of less than 3 million people – while China is the most populous nation on Earth with more than 1.4 billion people. The Baltic country’s land area is about 0.84 per cent the size of Australia
China has become increasingly sensitive over any references to Taiwan on the international stage.
In April, Communist Party mouthpiece People.cn blasted NASA for the “unforgivable” crime of including “Taiwan” in the “Country” option of the application page of the “Send your name to Mars” program.
China also demanded that Fashion giant H&M change a “problematic” map on its website.
The fashion retailer was told to study various Chinese laws, “bolster its awareness of the national territory, and really ensure the standardised use of the Chinese map”.
The Swedish fashion retailer later agreed to amend the map.
Australia officially adheres to the one-China policy, which means it does not recognise Taiwan as a country.
It does however maintain unofficial contacts with Taiwan promoting economic, trade and cultural interests, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison caused a stir in May when he said on 3AW that Australia had “always understood” the “One Country Two Systems” arrangement and would “continue to follow our policies there”.
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.
In May, Lithuania announced it was quitting China’s 17+1 cooperation forum with central and eastern European states, calling it “divisive”, AFP reports.
Politicians in the Czech Republic have also pushed for closer ties with Taiwan. Only 15 countries officially recognise Taipei over Beijing.
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