Lithuania has responded angrily to Beijing’s demand that it end ties with the self-ruled island of Taiwan, saying it was looking into retaliatory measures.
The new Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, said late on Sunday that China would never tolerate “internal issues of countries” affecting the “global strategic balance,” China’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
The island, which was an agent of resistance to the Communists who took power in China in 1949, lost control of its capital, Taipei, in 1949 to the communists as part of the Korean War.
Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be brought under mainland rule by force if necessary.
It has tried to intimidate Taiwan into switching allegiance by criticizing countries that cut diplomatic ties and denying them access to its markets.
Taiwan’s presidential office dismissed Wang’s statement as a “provocation,” saying Beijing had done everything to bully Taiwan and did not have its national interest at heart.
It was “nothing but a major power power seeking to exert its influence on an ordinary country that is sovereign and independent,” the office said.
Ties between Beijing and Lithuania have been strained over the years by Lithuania’s insistence on retaining formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, following Russia’s path and joining the Baltics, which have all seen their links with Beijing thaw.
Lithuania and Taiwan formally broke ties in October 2017, but Lithuania’s foreign ministry said at the time that its state-owned energy firm Klaipedos Vilnius had held talks on buying the island’s coal-fired, nuclear power stations.
Taiwan was punished by Beijing in 2017 by dropping from the list of partner countries to Taipei’s rival Hong Kong, which is already largely cut off from mainland trade.
The move was seen by Beijing as the latest in a series of incidents in which it has pressured Taiwan. In July, Taiwan’s daily newspaper Central News Agency confirmed that it had stopped receiving mainland stories and news stories.
A senior Lithuanian official, speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a Baltic summit in Lithuania last week, called the warning an attempt by Beijing to impose a “twin veto” of influence in the region, comparing it to “unavoidable duels with neighboring countries”.
“Lithuania has not changed its understanding and understanding of the importance of maintaining good relations with Taiwan, and especially in the energy sector,” he said.
He said Lithuania was analyzing Beijing’s move and was planning possible measures in response, without elaborating.
“At the same time, our great priority is to keep positive relations with our Russian partners and we are going to continue our policy,” he said.
Lithuania is considering selling oil and gas from its offshore fields to the U.S. Navy if Russia tried to block a pipeline that passes through its territory, he said.
“We will carefully consider this and hopefully the United States will be able to get a pipeline through Lithuanian territory,” he said.