BEIJING: China on Tuesday recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and expelled the Baltic Sea nation's top representative to Beijing over the country's decision to allow self-governing Taiwan to open an office in Lithuania under its own name.
Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory without the right to diplomatic recognition, although the island maintains informal ties with all major nations through trade offices that act as de facto embassies, including in the United States and Japan.
Chinese pressure has reduced Taiwan's formal diplomatic allies to just 15.
Taiwan and Lithuania agreed last month that the office in the capital Vilnius set to open this fall will bear the name of Taiwan rather than Chinese Taipei, the term used in other countries in order not to offend Beijing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement called on Lithuania to "immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path."
The statement referred to "potential consequences" for Lithuania if it allowed the office to open, but gave no details.
Along with intensifying diplomatic pressure, China has stepped up threats to bring Taiwan under its control, dispatching fighter jets and warships around the island.
"We also warn the Taiwan authorities that 'Taiwan independence' is a dead end and any attempt at separatist activities in the international arena is doomed to fail," the statement said.
The Chinese Government and people have unswerving determination to achieve reunification of the country.
The red line of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity shall not be crossed," it said.
Taiwan courted ties with Eastern European nations following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, citing their past experiences under authoritarian rule and embrace of multiparty democracy and liberal values.
China leveraged its growing economic and diplomatic clout to ensure such relations were only unofficial, although that hasn't tempered Taiwan's desire to find new openings.
In February, under pressure from China, Guyana canceled permission for Taiwan to open a trade and investment office in the South American country.
China in recent years has engaged in diplomatic feuds with nations from Norway to Australia over trade, human rights, political interference, intellectual property rights and even the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan's first-ever representative office abroad to bear the name of Taiwan was established in Somaliland in 2020.
The last time Taiwan established a representative office in Europe was in 2003 in Bratislava, Slovakia.