BEIJING (AP) — China lashed out at the United States on Thursday over its support for the European nation of Lithuania in its feud with Beijing over relations with Taiwan.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Washington was using the Baltic state to “use Taiwan to contain China.”
“The U.S. side has defended Lithuania’s erroneous act of creating ‘one China, one Taiwan,’ and attempted to put together a small clique condoning the Taiwan independence forces,” Wang said at a daily briefing.
His remarks came after the top U.S. and German diplomats on Wednesday said Chinese pressure against Lithuania was unwarranted.
Lithuania broke with diplomatic custom last year by letting the Taiwanese office in Vilnius bear the name Taiwan, instead of Chinese Taipei, which most other countries use to avoid offending Beijing.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory with no right to diplomatic recognition, and Lithuania’s move infuriated Beijing, which withdrew its ambassador to Vilnius and expelled the Lithuanian ambassador to Beijing. Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing.
Constant Chinese pressure has reduced the number of Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies to just 14, although it has robust informal relations with the U.S., Germany and most other major nations.
Lithuania, a country of 2.8 million people, is a member of the European Union and NATO and a close U.S. ally.
Wang also blasted Taiwan’s move to create a $200 million investment fund for Lithuania to offset China’s economic reprisals as “dollar diplomacy,” adding that “soliciting foreign support to Taiwan independence will only lead to a dead end.”
Taiwan’s office, a de facto embassy, opened in November, and Lithuania is planning to open its own trade office in Taiwan later this year.
Taiwan said it is ready to help Lithuania in resupplying trade, with the island saying goods are stopped from entering China.
“There are more than 120 sea containers — at least 1.5 million euro worth — blocked by Beijing. We’re ready to take all of those and help Lithuanian companies,” Huang said.
In his remarks after a meeting with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We have immediate concern about the government of China’s attempts to bully Lithuania.”
Blinken said China has been pushing European and American companies to stop building products with components made in Lithuania or risk losing access to the Chinese market.
Baerbock said “we as Europeans stand in solidarity at Lithuania’s side.”
China’s Foreign Ministry has not directly confirmed its trade ban on Lithuania or other forms of retaliation, but said that Vilnius had crossed a “red line.”
China’s ruling Communist Party has vast powers to pressure Chinese companies that don’t hew to the government’s political and diplomatic agenda.