China downgraded its diplomatic ties with Lithuania on Sunday after the Baltic state allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy there.
“Chinese government, out of the need to safeguard national sovereignty and basic norms governing international relations, has no choice but to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the charge d’affaires level,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The decision came after Taiwan, which China views as its breakaway province, opened its representative office, a de facto embassy, in Lithuania on Thursday.
China said the diplomatic relations was “damaged” by Lithuania.
The move creates “the false impression of ‘one China, one Taiwan’ …, undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interferes in China’s internal affair,” the statement further said.
It expressed the Chinese government’s “strong indignation and protest” against the recent move, warning Lithuania of consequences.
China urged the Lithuanian government to immediately step back and “not to underestimate the Chinese people’s strong resolve, will and capability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Lithuania, in return, said it “regrets” China's statement.
A statement by the Foreign Ministry “reaffirmed” Lithuania's adherence to “one China” policy, however added that the Baltic country “has the right to expand cooperation with Taiwan and to receive and establish non-diplomatic representations for ensuring the practical development of such ties.”
It cited “economic interests” for the opening of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.
In August, Beijing asked Lithuania’s ambassador to return home and recalled its ambassador from Vilnius after the European country moved ahead and decided to exchange diplomatic offices with Taiwan.
Taipei has been insisting on its independence since 1949 with independent diplomatic ties with at least 15 nations.