Beijing had previously punished Lithuania for allowing Taipei to open a trade office in Vilnius
Lithuania is set to open a trade office in Taiwan this week, according to media reports. A trade delegation from the Baltic state landed on the self-governed island at the weekend, Taipei’s foreign affairs department said on Monday.
It is believed that the officials will take part in the long-promised opening of a Lithuanian trade office in Taiwan, likely prompting anger from Beijing.
Lithuanian officials previously said that the office would be opened on Monday this week, news outlet South China Morning Post reported on Sunday. The initial plan voiced by Vilnius was to have the body operational before autumn, but the launch was postponed until early September.
Lithuania allowed the administration of Taiwan to establish a “representative office” in Vilnius last November, against the objections of Beijing. The Chinese government perceives any change of status in Taipei’s relations to foreign nations as an infringement on China’s sovereignty.
Beijing retaliated against Lithuania by downgrading diplomatic relations with the Baltic state and imposing economic sanctions. The EU is trying to overturn this through the dispute resolution mechanisms of the World Trade Organization.
Vilnius defied Chinese ire by moving its ties with Taiwan forward. In August, its government announced appointing Paulius Lukauskas as its “trade representative” in the planned office in Taipei. Lithuania claims that the office will be purely commercial and not political.
The Lithuanian official was working as an adviser to Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte at the time and was handpicked by the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. He was part of a Lithuanian delegation that visited Taiwan in June last year, which was led by Jovita Neliupsiene, the deputy minister for the department.
Taiwan was the last bastion of Chinese nationalist forces during the 1940s civil war, which was won by the Communists. The island has remained under US protection ever since, though Washington formally switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing as it reconciled with the Chinese government.
The island became the flashpoint of a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Washington last month after the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, decided to visit it. Beijing called the move a major escalation and launched the biggest military exercise near Taiwan in many years in a show of force.
President Joe Biden publicly pledged to defend Taiwan with US military force from a possible Chinese attack. Beijing states that its goal is to peacefully reunify with Taiwan and accuses the US of nudging what it views as separatists on the island’s administration towards declaring independence. Beijing warned that it would resort to military action as a measure of last resort.
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