Lithuania considers modifying Taiwan representation name to defuse row with China

Flags at Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania
Taiwanese and Lithuanian flags are displayed at the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, Lithuania January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Janis Laizans/File Photo

VILNIUS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Lithuanian officials, seeking to defuse a row with China, are discussing whether to ask their Taiwanese counterparts to modify the Chinese translation of the name of Taiwan's de-facto embassy in Vilnius, two sources told Reuters.

The self-ruled island that China views as part of its territory has other offices in Europe and the United States but they use the name of the city Taipei, avoiding reference to the island itself.

The row erupted after the Baltic state allowed the opening of the Taiwanese Representation office in Vilnius.

China has downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Lithuania and pressed multinationals to sever ties with the country or face exclusion from its market.

That is an unusually harsh move that has dragged companies into a political dispute and placed Beijing on a collision course with the European Union. L1N2SU0G7

Modifying the Chinese version of the representation name to refer to "Taiwanese people" rather than to Taiwan, was last week proposed by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to President Gitanas Nauseda as a way to reduce the tensions with China, sources said.

The change, which would bring the name in line with those used in Lithuanian and English, would need Taiwan's agreement.

The President's office refused to comment. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not reply to a request for comment.

It is not possible for any single gesture by Lithuania to change China's attitude, said Linas Kojala, who heads the Vilnius Eastern European Studies Centre think-tank.

"The government probably wants to emphasise that the office represents not Taiwan as a political entity, but the Taiwanese people with whom Lithuania wants to establish cultural, economic and other relationships," he said.

Chinese tabloid newspaper the Global Times published an article on Saturday saying that "it will take much more than just renaming the office" for Lithuania to mend its relationship with China.

"Lithuania needs to make substantial adjustments to its overall China policy, rather than completely follow the US' agenda," said the article in The Global Times, which is published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, editing by Ed Osmond

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Thomson Reuters

Andrius covers politics and general news in the Baltics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three key states along the NATO's eastern flank, the staunchest supporters of Ukraine and the most vocal critics of Russia in NATO and the European Union. He wrote stories on everything from China pressuring German companies to leave Taiwan-supporting Lithuania to Iraqi migrants hiding in the forest at the Belarus border to a farmer burning grain for heat during the energy crisis. Contact: +37068274006.