“Frankly, we haven’t had the discussion,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Tuesday when asked if he or other officials would travel to Beijing for the Games, which will take place in February.
“To be honest, I don’t see diplomats and officials lined up, eager to go,” he said. “I don’t think Beijing is eager to accept us at this point, as well.”
President Biden has said that his administration is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Games, and other nations such as Canada and Britain are also reportedly contemplating doing the same.
“There is a need for at least some level of coordination between the partners in the E.U. and the transatlantic to try and figure out, what is our stance?” Landsbergis said.
Beijing has repeatedly objected to the Taiwanese office in Lithuania, arguing that it creates “the false impression of ‘one China, one Taiwan’ in the world.”
Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with just 15 countries but has informal interest offices in many places around the world to promote political and economic ties.
The Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius is the first to open in Europe in 18 years. But it uses the word “Taiwanese” rather than referring to Taipei, the city where its government is based, like many other offices.
The Chinese Communist Party has claimed Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory since 1949. In recent months, tensions across the Taiwanese Strait have escalated, with observers warning of increased risk of conflict if Beijing tries to oust the island’s independent government.
Beijing downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania on Sunday. Landsbergis said that the move was expected but that China was also exerting significant economic pressure on his country.
“It is quite nasty because it’s not as if China is basing their decisions on international rules where, you know, you announce sanctions, you announce the reasoning. … Now, it’s all unannounced,” he said.
Landsbergis said over the summer, after the government announced that the Taiwanese office would open, “almost every few days, we would receive a new company that comes up and says: ‘Okay, we’re no longer doing business in China. We either cannot import something, we cannot export, our contracts being terminated or nobody’s answering emails.’ ”
Beijing’s angry reaction to the office has thrust Lithuania, an Eastern European country with a population that is smaller than almost 40 of the largest Chinese cities, into a geopolitical dispute with one of the most powerful nations on Earth.
Landsbergis was in Washington to attend a meeting of the U.S.-Lithuania Strategic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific on Tuesday. In a statement after the meeting, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said the two countries had discussed their “shared commitment to democratic values, human rights, and support for the international rules-based order.”
The United States has offered Lithuania trade support in its dispute with China, with Lithuania signing a $600 million export credit deal with the government-owned Export-Import Bank of the United States last week.
There has been growing pressure in the United States and among other Western nations for a coordinated diplomatic boycott of the Games. Support for the move has been spurred in part by international outrage over the treatment of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
Peng vanished from public life this month after making sexual assault allegations against a former high-ranking official. She later reappeared but in somewhat suspicious circumstances.
Some politicians have called for a wider boycott that includes athletes and commercial interests. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday that the government is also considering not sending any officials to the Games.
Landsbergis has called on democratic states to stand up to China and coordinate their actions. He admitted, however, that within the European Union there was a diversity of opinion, with some countries such as Hungary cooperating with China and others pursuing a more ambiguous policy.
“The European Union is in the process of finding the consensus” on China, Landsbergis said.
He added that Lithuania was seeking to diversify its economic and political links in the Indo-Pacific region and that the future of its relationship with Beijing was uncertain. “We do not consider ourselves to blame for the situation that both countries find themselves in,” he said.