State Department Official Voices Support for Lithuania Against China’s ‘Coercive Behavior’

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
journalist
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
August 15, 2021 Updated: August 16, 2021

The United States is determined to stand with Lithuania against China after Beijing pulled its envoy in retaliation for the Baltic nation’s decision to develop closer ties with Taiwan, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

Sherman made the commitment in a phone conversation with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Aug. 13. Beijing’s diplomatic outburst came after Lithuania agreed to allow Taiwan to open an office in the Baltic nation under the name of “Taiwan.”

“Sherman reiterated the United States is resolute in our solidarity with our NATO ally and EU partner Lithuania, including standing with them in the face of the People’s Republic of China’s recent coercive behavior in response to Lithuania’s decision to develop mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The regime in Beijing sees Taiwan as a part of its territory and exerts diplomatic pressure on nations and international organizations to keep them from establishing official ties with the self-ruled island. Because of Beijing’s pressure, countries without formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan often establish trade offices, which act as de facto embassies for the island nation.

Currently, Taiwan handles its bilateral affairs with Lithuania through its diplomatic outpost in neighboring Latvia’s capital, Riga. The outpost is called the Taipei Mission in the Republic of Latvia.

Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Europe is the Vatican. It doesn’t have formal ties with Lithuania, Latvia, or the United States.

In addition to recalling its ambassador to Lithuania, Beijing also demanded that Vilnius recall its ambassador to China. In response, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret over the Chinese regime’s decision but said it remained “determined to pursue mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan.”

Since then, China’s state-run media have harshly criticized Lithuania. On Aug. 11, China’s state-run Xinhua published a commentary saying that the Baltic nation was “playing with fire” over its decision on Taiwan.

The article said that Lithuanian policymakers “will ultimately pay for their recklessness” and that Beijing “will not hesitate to take strong countermeasures.”

China’s hawkish state-run media Global Times, in an editorial published on Aug. 11, said, “China should join hands with Russia and Belarus, the two countries that border Lithuania, and punish it” and that the Baltic state “needs to be taught a lesson.”

It also warned other European nations not to “think about using the Taiwan question as leverage against China,” since issues regarding the self-ruled island represent “a watershed between peace and war.”

Dovile Sakaliene, a member of the Lithuanian Parliament, took exception to the Global Times editorial, saying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was using the article to “openly threaten” her country.

“I believe democracy is more sustainable than dictatorships,” Sakaliene wrote on Twitter. “I guess [the] concept of independent countries forming a strategic partnership is unknown to dictators.”

Several U.S. lawmakers have also voiced their support for Lithuania.

“Throwing a tantrum when two free countries choose to talk to each other shows the paranoia and pettiness of the CCP regime,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Foreign Subcommittee on Asia, said in a statement: “I support our European partners’ efforts to further engage with Taiwan. … We must continue to oppose Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from the international community.”

On Aug. 14, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement welcoming the phone call between Sherman and Landsbergis. Taiwan also thanked the United States for being a leader for the global democratic camp, in the face of coercion from authoritarian regimes.

Taiwan will “continue to defend democracy, the rule of law, and protect human rights,” as well as strengthen its “cooperation with the United States,” the ministry stated.

Frank Fang
Frank Fang
journalist
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.