Taiwan will open a representative office in Lithuania, the first of its kind in Europe in 18 years, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, amid continuing tensions between the Communist-led mainland and the democratic, self-ruled island.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a virtual press conference that after months of negotiations, the governments of Taiwan and Lithuania agreed to open a representative office in their respective capitals. The Baltic country recognizes China diplomatically.

"We will soon establish the Taiwanese Representative Office in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and preparations are well under way," Wu said.

The ministry said it will be Taiwan's second representative office in Europe. The first opened in Slovakia in 2003.

The Vatican is the only European state with which Taiwan has diplomatic relations.

In August last year, Taiwan established a representative office in the breakaway territory of Somaliland. It opened a representative office in Taipei one month later.

The move angered China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Beijing on Tuesday expressed strong opposition to Taipei's decision, saying any official exchanges between Taiwan and foreign countries are not allowed.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing that the mainland "urges Lithuania to adhere to the one-China principle," adding any attempt by Taiwan to create "two Chinas" will not succeed.

When the Lithuanian government announced in March its plan to open a representative office in Taiwan by the end of this year, Beijing said the Baltic state should "refuse to be taken advantage of by Taiwan separatist forces, and avoid doing anything detrimental to bilateral political mutual trust."

The Lithuania's Foreign Ministry, in a statement Tuesday, said the move is "in line with the government's goal of diversifying Lithuania's export markets, and to seek new partners among democratic states in the Indo-Pacific region."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted last month, after his government approved the donation of 20,000 coronavirus vaccines to Taiwan, that "freedom-loving people should look out for each other!"

Amid a sense of caution against China's growing influence in Europe, Lithuania announced in May it has pulled out of the framework of economic cooperation between China and 17 Central and Eastern European countries.

Taiwan and China have been separately governed since they split in 1949 as a result of a civil war. Their relationship has deteriorated under independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen, who has served as Taiwan's president since 2016.

Beijing has been intensifying efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, seeking to chisel away a shrinking group of countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

While pledging to build up his nation's military, Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to the "reunification" of Taiwan with the mainland in a speech on the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party's founding.


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