Taiwan officials attend Vilnius event marking 100 years of U.S.-Lithuania ties

07/07/2022 03:34 PM
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(L-R) Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), Taiwan envoy to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀). CNA photo July 7, 2022
(L-R) Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), Taiwan envoy to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀). CNA photo July 7, 2022

Taipei, July 7 (CNA) Taiwan's top envoy to the United States Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), and Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng (曾厚仁) are in Vilnius to attend a conference marking the centenary of Lithuania's establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S., the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced Thursday.

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said Hsiao and Tseng would be joined at the conference by ruling-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) and Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), both members of the Legislative Yuan's Baltic State parliamentary friendship group.

Taiwan's government sent a delegation to the conference, following an invite from the Seimas, Lithuania's parliament, to highlight the fact that Taiwan, the U.S., and Lithuania are like-minded, freedom-loving partners, Ou said.

Ou said Taiwan and the U.S. had been actively supporting Lithuania in the face of "bullying" by China, which has been accused of imposing economic sanctions on Vilnius after it allowed the opening of a representative's office with the word "Taiwanese" in its name.

Aside from congratulating Lithuania and the U.S. on the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Hsiao, as the head of Taiwan's delegation, will also be speaking at the one-day conference, Ou added.

The conference aims to build a "solid foundation of freedom to further advocate for peace and democratic values worldwide, standing in opposition to the autocratic regimes," according to a press release issued on Wednesday by the Seimas.

Parliamentary representatives from Ukraine, the U.K., France, the U.S., and Canada are scheduled to attend the forum, which is set to be closed out with concluding marks from exiled Belurssian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, according to the press release.

Following the establishment of diplomatic relations on July 28, 1922, the United States maintained ties with Lithuania's government in exile between 1940 and 1991 after the Soviet Union's annexation of the Baltic States during the Second World War.

Relations between Taiwan and Lithuania have warmed over the past two years, with both sides signing an agreement in July 2021 to open reciprocal representative offices.

Taiwan opened its office in Vilnius on Nov. 18, 2021, with Lithuanian's office expected to open in Taipei sometime in September this year.

As Lithuania's ties with Taiwan have improved, the Baltic state has come under heavy political and economic pressure from Beijing over the naming of Taiwan's office there -- the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.

Taiwan typically names its overseas representative offices "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office" or "Taipei Representative Office," in keeping with the host countries' preference to avoid any references that would imply Taiwan is a separate country from China.

Beijing has sought to impose a political cost on Lithuania for its decision to allow the use of "Taiwanese" in the name of Taiwan's office, viewing the name as encouraging formal independence.

Recent punitive measures have included recalling its ambassador to Lithuania, downgrading diplomatic relations, expelling the Lithuanian ambassador to China, as well as suspending direct freight rail services, and blocking Lithuanian products from entering the Chinese market.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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