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Lithuania declares right to expand relations with Taiwan after China's diplomatic downgrade

'Lithuania wants a more intense economic, cultural, and scientific relationship with Taiwan': Prime Minister Simonyte

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Taiwan and Lithuania flags. (Depositphotos image)

Taiwan and Lithuania flags. (Depositphotos image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to China's decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Lithuania, the Baltic country asserted its right to deepen ties with Taiwan.

On Nov. 18, the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania was officially opened in the capital city of Vilnius, marking the first Eastern European country to have a representative office using the word "Taiwan" in its name. In retaliation for the new office, China's Foreign Ministry on Sunday (Nov. 21) announced it has downgraded Lithuania's ambassador in Beijing to the level of charge d’affaires.

That same day, Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it regrets China's decision not to return its ambassador, who was removed in August after the initial announcement of the Taiwanese representative office. It also lamented China's decision to demote Lithuania's ambassador.

The Baltic nation reaffirmed its commitment to the "one China policy" but also asserted its prerogative to "expand cooperation" with Taiwan and set up "non-diplomatic representations for ensuring the practical development of such ties." The foreign ministry stressed that the opening of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius is "based on economic interests."

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte was cited by Reuters as saying that the inauguration of Taiwan's office "should not have come as a surprise to anyone." She pointed out that Lithuania "wants a more intense economic, cultural, and scientific relationship with Taiwan" while emphasizing that it does not signify a break from the "one China policy."

Also on Sunday, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) issued a statement in which it denounced Chinese retaliation against Lithuania as "barbaric." The MAC stated that the opening of the office is "not an internal affair as China calls it" but rather a matter between Lithuania and Taiwan, adding that China "has no right to speak about it."