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Taiwan stands firm on name of representative office in Lithuania

05/09/2024 01:02 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, May 9 (CNA) Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Thursday that Taiwan has not received any formal request to change the name of its representative office in Lithuania and will not yield on that issue even is it is asked to do so.

"The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania" is a name that was agreed on in 2021 by the two governments, after some negotiations, and they signed official documents to that effect, Wu said in a radio interview, when asked about a reported proposal by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda to change the name.

In an interview published Tuesday by the Baltic News Service, Nausėda said that while he welcomed, in principle, the establishment of the representative office in Lithuania, "in the context of the stabilization of relations with China, I would see the need to change its name."

The current name of the office "sounds like a Taiwan mission, not a Taiwanese mission, and Beijing sees this as an attempt by Taiwan to act as an independent state," Nausėda was quoted as saying in the BNS interview series, published in English in the run-up to Lithuania's presidential election on May 12.

"The adjustment [of the name] could serve as Lithuania's signal towards the normalization of diplomatic relations with China," said Nausėda, who is seeking reelection.

Asked Thursday to comment on Nausėda's statements on the issue, Wu said it is normal for politicians in a democratic country to express different views on various issues, and it was not the first time that Nausėda had made such a suggestion.

However, in Lithuania, it is the prime minister, not the president, who is the head of government, Wu said.

He also said that the opposition parties in Lithuania do not support changing the Taiwan office's name, as they think such a move would hurt their country's international reputation and indicate it was bowing to pressure from China.

In response to a question by the radio host, Wu said Taiwan had not received any official requests from the Lithuanian government to change the office's name.

"I don't think they will ask us to change it," he said. "Even if they ask to sign a new agreement [on the Taiwan office's name], we won't accept that," Wu said.

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

Taiwan opened its office in Vilnius on Nov. 18, 2021, while the Lithuanian Trade Representative Office officially opened in Taipei on Nov. 7, 2022.

Taiwan representative offices overseas are typically named the "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, which sees Taiwan and mainland China as part of the same country, has sought to impose political and economic penalties on Lithuania for its decision to allow the inclusion of "Taiwanese" in the name of the Taiwan office, as Beijing views those optics as encouraging formal independence.

Beijing's punitive measures have included recalling its ambassador to Lithuania, downgrading diplomatic relations with the Baltic country, expelling the Lithuanian ambassador to China, suspending direct freight rail services to Lithuania, and banning the country's products on the Chinese market.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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