Taiwanese suggest "looking forward" as Lithuanian president proposes name change - BNS SPECIAL

  • 2024-05-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania has suggested "looking forward" in bilateral relations amid Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda's proposal to change the name of the Taiwanese representation.

"We understand it is the campaign season for major elections in Lithuania," the office told BNS on Wednesday. "The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania would like to once again emphasize that the title of our office is based on mutual agreement of both governments after a series of bilateral consultations.

"Taiwan and Lithuania should look forward, and continue to work together to further advance our bilateral relations," the office underlined.

Its comment came in response to Nauseda's statement that the title of the Taiwanese Representative Office should be changed.

"While welcoming in principle the establishment of such a representative office in Lithuania, in the context of the stabilization of relations with China, I would see the need to change its name," Nauseda, who is seeking re-election, said in response to the same question to all presidential candidates on Taiwan.

He stressed the need for respectful dialogue with both Taiwan and China, and pointed to experts' assessment that, in Chinese, the name of the office sounds like a Taiwan mission, not a Taiwanese mission. Beijing sees this as an attempt by Taiwan to act as an independent state. In other countries, such representations operate under the name of Taipei.

The adjustment (of the name) could serve as Lithuania's signal to normalize diplomatic relations with China," Nauseda said.

Earlier, the president took a more moderate stance and urged the government to "correct" the name of the Taiwanese office in Lithuania so that it sounds the same in all languages.

For her part, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, who is also running for president, told BNS that the name of the Taiwanese office in Lithuania was chosen by the Taiwanese themselves as they have "a morally justified right to do so, in accordance with the principles of international law".

"Most decision-makers have already realized that it would be both unwise and useless for Lithuania to force Taiwan to change the name of the office. This stance was publicly endorsed by presidential candidate Nauseda during a recent foreign policy debate, so if there has been a change in his position, it is surprising and difficult to understand," the prime minister told BNS.

Sino-Lithuanian relations soured after the opening of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania and Beijing downgraded it diplomatic relations with Vilnius and blocked Lithuanian exports.

"We must understand the wider geopolitical picture. The country that downgraded them should take the initiative to "normalize" relations, and with our attempts, at Taiwan's expense, to "restore" relations with China, which is on the list of countries threatening Lithuania's national security and which is helping Russia in its war against Ukraine, we would not only run the risk of damaging Lithuania's reputation in the eyes of democratic countries, but also of losing face in the eyes of our transatlantic partners who strongly support Lithuania's position," the prime minister said.

Asked by BNS, she said she would not change the name of the Taiwanese office.