China

China demands Lithuania withdraw envoy in row over Taiwan

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BEIJING, Aug 10 (Reuters) - China on Tuesday demanded that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall China's envoy to Vilnius in a row over the Baltic state allowing Chinese-claimed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy there using its own name.

China considers democratically governed Taiwan to be its most sensitive territorial issue as part of "one China", and is regularly angered by any moves which suggest the island is a separate country.

Taiwan announced the new mission last month, saying it would be called the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, the first time the island's name has been used for one of its offices in Europe, as normally only "Taipei" is used. read more

Taiwan took part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics under the name of "Chinese Taipei". read more

Lithuania's permission for the office to open under the name of Taiwan was done "in disregard of China's repeated representations and articulation of potential consequences", and severely undermines China's sovereignty, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

"The Chinese government expresses its categorical opposition to this move. China has decided to recall its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded the Lithuanian Government recall its ambassador to China," it added.

"We urge the Lithuanian side to immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path."

Lithuania said earlier this year it planned to open its own representative office in Taiwan, and has donated 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the island.

Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but many others have de facto embassies which are often termed trade offices, as is the case for the European Union, of which Lithuania is a member state.

Lithuania said China's decision was "disappointing".

"We are considering our next moves," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Reuters.

"Obviously we got the message but we stated our own message as well, that Lithuania will continue with its policy because it is not only Lithuania's policy we are pursuing, it is also the policy of many European countries."

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told a regular news briefing that the United States supported European partners and allies in developing relations with Taiwan and resisting China's "coercive behaviour".

"We do stand in solidarity with our NATO ally Lithuania and we condemn the PRC's recent retaliatory actions," Price said, using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.

China, which has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary, has ramped up pressure on countries not to engage with Taiwan.

In February, the South American country of Guyana revoked a deal for Taiwan to open a representative office there only a day after Taipei had announced it. Taiwan blamed Chinese "bullying" for the decision.

Reporting by Beijing newsroom, Janis Laizans in Vilnius, and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Writing by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich

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