Lithuania delegation in Taiwan ahead of representative office opening

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A Lithuanian trade delegation was on a visit to Taiwan, the island's foreign ministry said Monday, ahead of Vilnius opening a de facto embassy in Taipei.

The European Union member's decision to swap representative offices with Taiwan has set off a bitter dispute with China, which sees the self-ruled island as part of its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.

The visit demonstrated "the spirit of mutual support and solidarity between Taiwan and Lithuania as loyal partners on the frontline of democracy," Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

A 28-member group from Lithuania comprising government officials and tech-sector representatives landed in Taipei over the weekend, the ministry said, but there was no further news on the opening of Lithuania's representative office in Taipei.

Lithuanian vice-minister for the economy and innovation Jovita Neliupsience told Baltic News Service last month that the office was expected to start operations on Monday.

But Vilnius's first representative to Taiwan, Paulius Lukauskas, did not comment on the planned opening at a trade event for the visiting delegation on Monday.

Beijing baulks at any international support that might lend a sense of international legitimacy to Taiwan.

Most countries officially recognise Beijing over Taipei but maintain trade and unofficial relations with the island.

Lithuania incurred China's wrath by allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius under its own name last year --  a significant diplomatic departure that triggered Beijing to downgrade relations with the Baltic country.

Lithuanian exports have been stopped at China's border, with widespread reports that European exporters have been cautioned by Beijing clients to cut all ties with the country.

Beijing has also reacted with anger to visits by Western delegations and staged massive military exercises to protest US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taipei last month.

Its unprecedented drills triggered widespread support in the United States for solidarity with Taipei, with 28 members of Congress travelling to Taiwan so far this year.

Many European powers have also grown more vocal in support of Taiwan in recent years, while Russia invading Ukraine has deepened fears China might do the same to its neighbour.

aw/ssy