December 9, 2023

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Lithuania says its strained relations with China are a “wake-up call” for Europe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lithuania’s deputy foreign minister on Wednesday described China’s treatment of Lithuania as a “wake-up call” for Europe and called on the European Union to unite over its dealings with Beijing.

Lithuania requested to recall its ambassador to Beijing in August after Taiwan announced that its office in Vilnius would be Taiwan’s representative office in Lithuania.

This year, the country of 3 million people withdrew from the “17 + 1” dialogue mechanism between China and some Central and Eastern European countries, which the United States sees as an attempt by Beijing to divide European diplomacy.

Trade disruptions caused by the tensions have put Lithuania at risk of economic growth.

Speaking before the Security Council in Washington, D.C., Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Arnoldos Francois said: “I think in many ways this is a wake-up call, especially if our European colleagues want to stand up for democracy. You have to understand that you have to stand up for that.”

For Europe to be reliable in the world and a partner of the United States, Francois said, it must “take action against China.”

China is trying to set an example for us – a negative example so that other countries don’t have to walk like this. So how Western society, the United States and the European Union will react is a matter of policy.

China, which democratically claims Taiwan as its territory, remains angry at any move to treat the island as a separate country.

Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but many of them have practical embassies called trade offices that use the name of the city of Taipei to avoid mentioning the island.

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He added that Lithuania’s exit from the 17+1 mechanism was not anti-Chinese but pro-European.

“We have to talk as one, otherwise we will not be able to be credible, protect our interests and have an equal relationship with Beijing,” he said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and David Princestrom; Editing by Sam Holmes)