China downgrades ties with Lithuania over Taiwan

China says it has decided to downgrade its ties with Lithuania after the Baltic nation allowed Taiwan to open a representative office under its own name.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the decision on Sunday, three days after Taiwan said it had set up a "Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania" in Vilnius.

The ministry said in a statement that "the Chinese side expresses its strong indignation and protest against this move, and decides to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the charge d'affaires level."

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, heads of diplomatic missions are divided into three classes -- ambassadors, envoys or ministers and charge d'affaires.

Countries that have no diplomatic ties with Taiwan usually don't allow the use of the name "Taiwan" out of consideration for China's argument that Taiwan is part of the country. The name "Taipei" is often used.

Beijing recalled its ambassador in August after Lithuania approved the establishment of Taiwan's representative office bearing the name "Taiwan."

In May, Lithuania pulled out of an economic cooperation framework that China had formed with 17 central and eastern European countries.

Vilnius also has provided Taiwan with coronavirus vaccines.

Lithuania's Foreign Ministry released a statement on Sunday, saying that it regrets China's decision "not to return ambassadors and change the level of the diplomatic relations."

The statement also says, "Lithuania reaffirms its adherence to the 'One China' policy, but at the same time has the right to expand cooperation with Taiwan."