China downgrades its diplomatic relations with Lithuania over Taiwan issue

China has officially downgraded its diplomatic ties with Lithuania after it allowed Taiwan to open a de-facto embassy in Vilnius.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that Lithuania had ignored China’s “solemn stance” and the basic norms of international relations in allowing Taiwan to set up its representative office. China considers the self-ruled and democratically governed Taiwan island as its own territory. In August, Beijing expelled the Lithuanian ambassador and recalled its Ambassador from Lithuania in protest to the Baltic state’s decision to allow Taiwan to open its de-facto embassy in Vilnius. The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania opened on Thursday.

The move “undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs”, creating a “bad precedent internationally”, the ministry statement said, adding relations would be downgraded to the level of charge d’affaires. The Lithuanian government must bear all the ensuing consequences, the statement said. “We urge the Lithuanian side to correct its mistakes immediately and not to underestimate the Chinese people’s firm determination and staunch resolve to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” No matter what Taiwan does, it cannot change the fact that it is part of China, the ministry added.

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. Taiwan has been upbeat by growing international support for it, especially from the US and some of its allies, in the face of China’s military and diplomatic pressure.

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