China calls Prague council's move to cancel pact a 'breach of faith'

BEIJING/PRAGUE (Reuters) - China hit back on Wednesday at a decision by the Prague city council to cancel a partnership agreement with Beijing that would have required it to commit to the “one China” principle affirming that Taiwan is a part of China.

Czech President Milos Zeman has pushed ties with China, but the capital’s government has figured in diplomatic rows between the two nations, such as one over the mayor’s refusal of a Chinese demand to eject a Taiwan official from a conference.

“This type of action can be termed a breach of faith, and does harm to China and the Czech Republic’s relationship and the atmosphere of cooperation and exchange,” the Chinese embassy in the Czech Republic said.

“We urge the Prague city government to make a fresh start and to return to the correct path that promotes the development of bilateral relations,” it said in a statement on its public Wechat account.

“Otherwise, ultimately, the damage will be their own interests.”

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek rebuffed the statement.

“I am convinced that threats don’t belong to diplomacy,” he told reporters in Prague. “I see it as very strong pressure. I told the Chinese ambassador that we should rather concentrate on creating a friendly environment for development of our relations.”

The council’s decision to cancel the agreement must ultimately be approved by the city assembly.

The city’s leadership, elected last year, says it is not standard for city-to-city partnerships, such as the one signed by the previous administration in 2016, to include diplomatic matters that are up to national governments.

The Czech Republic is committed to the “one China” policy.

“The one China principle concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and involves China’s core interests. It is the basis and premise for China to carry out all foreign exchanges and cooperation,” the embassy added.

Ties have already been dented by a warning last year by the Czech cyber-security watchdog against the risks of using equipment made by China’s Huawei and ZTE in critical infrastructure.

Expectations of billions of dollars worth of Chinese investments in the country have also not materialized.

Reporting by Huizhong Wu, Additional reporting by Robert Muller in Prague; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Giles Elgood