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2022.08.10 13:25

Beijing envoy criticises Lithuania’s delegation to Taiwan

Qu Baihua, China's acting chargé d’affaires in Lithuania, has warned that any visit to Taiwan by officials from Lithuania or other countries “violates the One-China principle” and called to refrain from such visits in the future.

Lithuania’s Deputy Transport Minister Agnė Vaiciukevičiūtė, accompanied by a delegation of local businesspeople, is visiting Taiwan this week to discuss potential transport cooperation.

Two more deputy ministers from Lithuania have visited Taiwan this year: Vice Minister of Economy Jovita Neliupšienė and Vice Minister of Agriculture Egidijus Giedraitis.

In Beijing’s view, those are political visits by executive officials, Qu Baihua said.

“Your government vice-ministers are visiting, talking about signing documents with the sovereignty implications: agreements, memorandums between governments, they are representing your cabinet, your country,” the diplomat said in an interview to BNS.

“Why do they have to visit Taiwan? [...] That sends wrong signals to Taiwanese separatist forces,” he added.

According to the diplomat, the name of the trade representative office, which Lithuania plans to open in Taiwan in September, should not cause any problems on condition that it contains no references to “Taiwan”.

Vilnius earlier said it would call the new office the trade representative office of Lithuania in Taipei.

“If your trade office carries references to ‘Taiwan’ in its name, it will be equally destructive like the opening of an office here,” Qu Baihua said.

He called on politicians to refrain from future visits to Taipei, in particular after a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for which China retaliated with sanctions against the politician and military drills around Taiwan.

Best ‘to cancel the office’

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in late July that he saw positive signs in resolving disputes between Vilnius and Beijing but stressed that it was still too early to talk about that.

Qu Baihua stated in his turn that positive signs could only be seen in trade relations, but not in diplomatic ties thus far.

“From my office here, we did not see much of the change,” the diplomat said.

Last year, as Vilnius and Taipei deepened their relations, a Taiwanese representative office was opened in Lithuania. This caused Chinese resentment, as elsewhere in the world Taiwanese missions operate under the name of the capital Taipei, following an international consensus that such a name is in line with the One-China policy.

Following the opening of the representative office, Beijing downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and imposed trade restrictions, which the European Union took to the World Trade Organization.

According to data from Statistics Lithuania, the country’s exports to China went on a rapid downward path last December but recovered in the second quarter of this year and reached approximately 22 million euros, compared to some 9 million euros in the first quarter.

Despite that, Qu Baihua said there were no possibilities to restore diplomatic relations to their previous level.

“The first step for that would be to change the name [of the Taiwanese representative office]. But it would be best to expel, cancel the office,” the diplomat said.

He added that China was always open to negotiations, but stressed that, in his opinion, there were no other ways than changing the name of the representative office that could open the door to the restoration of bilateral relations between Vilnius and Beijing.

The response is ‘proportionate’

Despite China’s threats, US House Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan last week, becoming the highest-ranking elected American official to set foot in Taiwan in a quarter century.

In response, Beijing staged its largest-ever military exercise encircling Taiwan.

Qu Baihua claimed this was a “necessary action” to show Beijing’s determination to defend the country’s territorial integrity.

“If Taiwan’s separatist forces or the United States keep changing the status quo, that would leave us no room but take back Taiwan,” he said.

According to the diplomat, Beijing has no such plans so far, as it still hopes to find a peaceful solution.

“We have expressed very clearly that we are very much hopeful for peaceful unification with Taiwan,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Taipei’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that “China has used the drills in its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan”.

He called Beijing’s war games a “gross violation of Taiwan’s rights” and an attempt to take control of the waters around Taiwan and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Support to Ukraine is ‘pouring fuel on fire’

As Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Western countries condemned the Kremlin’s actions, but China refrained from doing the same.

Nonetheless, Beijing expressed its “respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Qu Baihua said.

He stressed that China did not provide military or any other support to Russia.

“Americans have made a lot of bad things but I didn’t see your condemnation or any bad words criticising the US,” the diplomat said.

Some Western politicians accuse Beijing of covering Moscow diplomatically by criticising the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States and the supply of weapons to Kyiv.

Qu Baihua stated that China sought the resolution of the conflict through negotiations, adding that the EU and the United States “pour fuel on the fire” by providing their support.

The EU and the US have warned Beijing not to provide any support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and not to help Moscow circumvent sanctions imposed by the West.

China and India are two major economies that have not taken part in retaliatory measures against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.