China and Russia Should Team up to 'Punish' Lithuania, Says Beijing Media

A Chinese Communist Party newspaper continued an editorial campaign against Lithuania this week by suggesting Beijing and Moscow should "join hands" to punish the Baltic nation for its ongoing row with China over Taiwan.

The Chinese government said it would recall its ambassador from Vilnius on Tuesday after Lithuania disregarded diplomatic protests and threats of "potential consequences" over the planned opening of a Taiwanese Representative Office in the city.

The office would be the island's first de facto embassy in Europe to bear the name "Taiwan" instead of the typical "Taipei," which affords a degree of ambiguity to countries that have no formal diplomatic ties with the Chinese-claimed democracy.

In an editorial on Wednesday, the Global Times, which operates under the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily newspaper, described the Lithuanian government's decision as "extremely reckless behavior that will shake China-Lithuania ties."

Lithuania established formal relations with China in 1991 and says the unofficial Taiwan office is in line with its "one China" policy. The European Union and the United States endorsed the position.

The Global Times, whose editor called Lithuania a "crazy, tiny country" in a tirade published on Tuesday, has described the Baltic state as the most "anti-China" and "anti-Russia" nation in Europe.

Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to regain independence in March 1990, following half a century of occupation. Russian troops didn't withdraw from its territory for another three years.

"China must take strong countermeasures against Lithuania. If Lithuania persists, China must be prepared for a breakdown in ties," said the state-owned tabloid, which carries some of Beijing's more hawkish views. There are currently no signs pointing to the severing of formal diplomatic ties.

Joining Hands With Russia

The paper suggested using China's relationship with Russia as a tool against Vilnius. "China should join hands with Russia and Belarus, the two countries that border Lithuania, and punish it."

"China and Russia should take proper opportunities to strike against a country that has lost its mind. This should be the new content and guidance for China-Russia strategic cooperation," the article said, without elaborating on how.

There was no indication that the newspaper's suggestion would have any traction in Moscow.

Lithuania has defended its right to an independent foreign policy, and to establish closer economic and cultural ties with Taiwan. Its president, Gitanas Nausėda, told the Baltic News Service on Tuesday that "unilateral ultimatums" weren't acceptable in international relations.

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry praised Lithuania's "firm resolve" in safeguarding dignity and freedom.

At a regular press conference, also on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price outlined a distinction between each government's "one China" policy and what Beijing terms its "one China principle," under which Taiwan is framed as a Chinese province.

U.S. Offers Support to Lithuania

He said: "We support our European partners and our allies as they develop mutually beneficial relations with Taiwan and resist the [People's Republic of China's] coercive behavior. Taiwan is a global leader in public health and advanced manufacturing and democratic governance, to name just a few areas in which the international community—including the United States—benefits from engagement with Taiwan."

"Each country should be able to determine the contours of its own 'one China' policy without outside coercion. We have done just that," he added.

The U.S. recognizes the PRC as the sole rightful government of China but only "acknowledges" the PRC's claim over Taiwan, whose status remains unsettled. The nuance in language has allowed Washington to conduct an unofficial relationship with Taipei for over 40 years.

When China withdrew its ambassador from Vilnius on Tuesday, it requested that Lithuania do the same with its envoy in Beijing. Diana Mickeviciene told AFP on Wednesday she would be returning home at the earliest possibility.

A Lithuanian representative office is set to open in Taipei later this year.

Lithuanian Ambassador to Withdraw From Beijing
A file photo of the Lithuanian Embassy in Beijing. JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

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