Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry announced plans to open a representative office in Lithuania. The office will bear the name “Taiwan” despite Beijing’s “One China” policy.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Tuesday that Taipei would open a “representative office” bearing the name Taiwan in Vilnius, the first of its kind to include Taiwan in the name in Europe.
Calling the move “significantly meaningful,” Wu said that “Taiwan and Lithuania are both at the strategic forefront of defending democratic institutions”.
“I believe that through the close connection of shared values, the two countries’ peoples can work together to play a positive role in the international community and contribute to world peace, stability, and prosperity,” Wu said.
Lithuania, like most of the world, does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Countries that do, for the most part, are then frozen out by China, which claims Taiwan as its territory.
Formally, the new representative office in Vilnius will be called the “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” Come fall, Lithuania will also have a diplomatic mission in Taipei.
There have been signals of closer diplomatic cooperation in recent months leading up to Tuesday’s announcement.
In June, Lithuania announced it was donating 20,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine to Taiwan. In May, Lithuania quit the 17+1 cooperation forum with China and other Central and Eastern European nations, labeling it “divisive.”
What is in a name?
The last time Taiwan opened a representative office in Europe was in the Slovak capital Bratislava in 2003. That diplomatic mission is formally known as the “Taipei Representative Office.”
Czechia has also pushed for closer diplomatic ties with Taipei, canceling a sister city agreement with Beijing in 2019 and instead opting for one with Taipei. Last year, the Czech senate leader Milos Vystrcil made a high-profile visit to Taiwan, upsetting Beijing.
Taiwan only opened its first de facto embassy under its name in Somaliland in 2020. An effort in Guyana to open a trade and investment office was aborted in February due to pressure from Beijing.
Expelled from the UN in 1971 and replaced by China, Taiwan is only recognized by 15 other nations due to the extraordinary pressure of Beijing to have other countries recognize its “One China” policy.
Reactions of US and China diverge
The de facto US Embassy in Taipei formally called the American Institute in Taiwan, applauded the move in a statement.
By contrast, Zhu Fenglian, the spokesperson for the Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office, warned Vilnius on social media “to adhere to the one-China principle and not send the wrong signals to forces behind Taiwan independence”.
Even in countries where Taipei maintains representative offices, “Taiwan” is not used routinely as a label for such missions. “Chinese Taipei” is seen as a more Beijing-friendly name.
For reasons of the Baltic states’ half-century of Soviet occupation, Taiwan has sought closer relations with the region, perceiving a shared geographic and political reality as smaller states buttressing democracy on the doorstep of much larger autocratic countries seeking regional domination.
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