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China downgrades diplomatic ties with Lithuania


Beijing: China has officially downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania, the foreign ministry in Beijing said on Sunday, after Taiwan established a de facto embassy in Vilnius.

China baulks at any official use of the word “Taiwan” in case it gives international legitimacy to the island, which Beijing considers part of its territory to be taken one day. “The Chinese government had to lower diplomatic relations between the two countries… to safeguard its sovereignty and the basic norms of international relations,” the ministry said in a statement announcing the downgrade to the charge d’affaires level.

“The Lithuanian government must bear all consequences that arise from this.” It added that Lithuania had “abandoned the political commitment made upon the establishment of diplomatic relations” with China. It was a reference to the “One China” policy, under which countries officially recognise Beijing over Taipei. Lithuania’s foreign ministry on Sunday said it regretted China’s decision.

“Lithuania reaffirms its adherence to the ‘One China’ policy, but at the same time has the right to expand cooperation with Taiwan,” the ministry said in a statement. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte stressed that Taiwan’s office in Vilnius does not have diplomatic status. “The fact that Lithuania wants to intensify economic, cultural or scientific ties with Taiwan was announced in our government’s programme, so our move should not be very surprising,” she told reporters. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV called the move a “solemn warning against the crude provocation of China’s core interests”.

“This fully reveals Lithuanian politicians’ strategic short-sightedness,” CCTV said in a commentary, adding that those who “play the so-called ‘Taiwan card’” are “stupid without knowing it”. Taiwan announced in July that it would open the office, its first new diplomatic outpost in Europe in 18 years.

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