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11th Aug 2022

Lithuania only EU state to back Pelosi on Taiwan

  • Nancy Pelosi, the US speaker, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
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Lithuania has become the only EU country to publicly endorse a controversial US visit to Taiwan by House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Now speaker Pelosi has opened the door to Taiwan much wider, I am sure other defenders of freedom and democracy will be walking through very soon," Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Twitter on Tuesday (2 August).

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He spoke out as Pelosi's plane touched down the same day in Taipei, where she met with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday to voice US solidarity.

"I think they [the Chinese] made a big fuss because I'm speaker — I don't know whether that's the reason or an excuse. Because they didn't say anything when the men came," Pelosi told press, referring to a visit by six male US lawmakers in April.

The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, earlier warned Pelosi that she was "playing with fire".

The Chinese military scrambled jets and warships in snap military drills in the region.

And the Chinese foreign ministry warned: "No country, no forces and no individual should ever misestimate the firm resolve, strong will and great capability of the Chinese government and people to defend state sovereignty and territorial integrity and to achieve national reunification".

Lithuania already attracted Chinese fury, including trade sanctions, last year by letting Taiwan open a quasi-embassy in Vilnius and by sending ministers and MPs on visits to Taipei.

MEPs have also defied China by going to Taipei last November and in July this year. And Landsbergis' comment on "other defenders of freedom" pointed to a planned future visit by the British parliament's foreign-affairs committee.

Meanwhile, EU-China relations have also frayed over Beijing's political support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and over Chinese abuse of its Uighur minority.

Behind the EU silence on Pelosi's visit, "there was apprehension in European capitals that one of China's possible responses ... may be an acceleration in the level of its cooperation with Moscow," Jonathan Eyal, from British defence think-tank Rusi, wrote in an op-ed in The Straits Times newspaper.

"There is also a fear that rising tensions between Beijing and Washington may divert US attention away from confronting the Russian invasion of Ukraine," he added.

Pelosi's trip was "purely provocative", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said on Tuesday, highlighting the geopolitical links between the Ukraine and Taiwan conflicts.

Chinese president Xi Jinping was watching the Ukraine war "like a hawk" to see how far the West was willing to defend its friends around the world, Richard Moore, the head of Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service, said on 21 July.

"In the event of a military invasion [of Taiwan], we have made it very clear that the EU, with the United States and its allies, will impose similar or even greater measures than we have now taken against Russia," Jorge Toledo, the EU's incoming ambassador to China, said on 17 July.

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