China Rejects Lithuania’s Claims Over Embassy Security
(Bloomberg) -- China dismissed claims that Lithuania’s diplomats faced security risks in Beijing as “totally groundless,” amid deepening tensions between the two nations over the Baltic state’s ties with Taiwan.
“The Lithuania side didn’t raise any security issue with China and the ins and outs of all this thing is very clear,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
“If the Lithuanian side refuses to own up to the reality and hopes to shift blame by spreading disinformation, it will bring greater impact to bilateral relations, hurt the feelings of the two peoples, and harm Lithuania ultimately,” Wang said.
Lithuania’s acting chargé d’affaires, the second in command at the embassy, also other embassy employees and their family members returned to the capital Vilnius on Wednesday, according to the European Union country’s Foreign Ministry. Lithuania is now awaiting China’s decision on whether to accredit its diplomats, and the embassy in Beijing is continuing to work remotely.
Tensions between China and Lithuania have soured since Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius last month, a move Beijing deems a violation of its one-China principle. China considers the democratically run island part of its territory and has asserted the right to take it by force, although Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen argues she leads a sovereign nation.
China earlier downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania, recalled its ambassador and allegedly stopped clearing Lithuanian exports, prompting the EU to raise the dispute with the World Trade Organization. The Chinese state-backed media outlet Global Times has denied there are any trade disruptions.
Lithuania’s requests to extend the expiration deadline of diplomats’ identification documents went unanswered by China and “people came back as soon as it was possible,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.
China had pressured the Baltic nation to change its embassy’s name to the Office of the Charge d‘Affaires, according to Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry, a label that doesn’t exist in international law and one that would effectively downgrade its diplomatic status.
“This is still our embassy, which has never changed its name,” said Landsbergis. “Any change of name must be done on bilateral basis. Unilateral changes are not recognized by international law.”
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