Brussels (Brussels Morning) Lithuania recalled its diplomats from China on Wednesday as bilateral relations between the two countries worsened over Lithuania’s warming ties with Taiwan.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement noting that acting chargé d’affaires Audra Čiapienė had been recalled for consultations, DW reported.
Lithuania has now withdrawn all embassy staff from Beijing, with a diplomatic source stressing that they were recalled for safety reasons in response to intimidation, according to Reuters.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that the diplomats were en route home from China, while maintaining that “this is not the closure of the embassy.”
The Ministry pointed out in the statement that the embassy will operate remotely for now and that consular services for Lithuanians in China would be provided in limited capacity.
“Lithuania is ready to continue the dialogue with China and restore the functions of the embassy to their full extent once a mutually beneficial agreement has been reached”, the Ministry concluded.
Taiwan welcomes Lithuania’s cooperation
On Wednesday, the Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered its “highest respect to the Lithuanian government and its diplomatic decision-making”, calling on Taiwanese companies to develop stronger economic ties with the Baltic EU member state.
Tensions between Lithuania and China rose last month, when Taiwan opened a de facto embassy in Vilnius, the first of its kind in Europe in 18 years.
China withdrew its ambassador from Vilnius at the end of November and declared the Lithuanian ambassador persona non grata, forcing him to return to Lithuania.
In September, Lithuanian authorities advised citizens to get rid of their smartphones if made in China, noting that that the National Cyber Security Centre had found an eavesdropping-cum-censorship tool that could be used without warning.
Lithuania has excluded Chinese companies and technology from its 5G expansion for “safety reasons”. The country had left the economic cooperation initiative 17+1 between China and Central and Eastern Europe in 2020.
Last month, Landsbergis pointed out that “economic relations established with democratic states are more sustainable and long-lasting… they are more based on the principle of rule of law …[and] therefore they are more in line with Lithuanian interests.”