China's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday demanded Lithuania recall its ambassador from Beijing and said it would pull its own envoy from Vilnius over what China considers to be recognition of Taiwan.
Lithuania had given Taiwan permission to open a representative office in Vilnius three weeks ago. This has enraged Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own.
What did China say?
China's foreign ministry published a strongly worded statement on Tuesday over the Lithuanian decision.
"This action flagrantly violated the spirit of the communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and seriously damaged China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the Chinese foreign ministry.
The "People's Republic of China is the only legal government representing the whole of China" said the statement.
"The determination of the Chinese government and people to realize the reunification of the motherland is unshakable, and the red line of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity cannot be touched," the ministry said.
"We urge Lithuania to immediately correct this wrong decision ... and not go further and further on the wrong road."
China also warned Taiwanagainst trying to seek further independence adding that "attempts to engage in separatist activities in the international arena will never succeed."
Why is Taiwan such a thorny issue?
In its drive for territorial integrity, China regularly protests any moves to recognize Taiwan across the world.
The Lithuanian-based Taiwan office, set to open in the fall, would be the first European representative office to be called by the country's own name, as opposed to Taipei, its capital.
In return, Lithuania would open its own representative office in Taipei, while offering to donate 20,000 coronavirus vaccines dosesin the process.
Reacting to the Chinese statement, the Lithuanian foreign ministry said later on Tuesday that it was sticking with its decision to strengthen ties with Taiwan while respecting the "one China" principle.
Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou praised Lithuania's "firm will to defend the concept of national
dignity and freedom."
"The two sides will continue to strengthen exchanges in various fields on the basis of universal values such as democracy, freedom and human rights,'' Ou said
Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, with the EU having its own representative office with the beleaguered island.
jc/aw (dpa, Reuters)