China reduces ties with Lithuania in Taiwan spat

Beijing: China on Sunday reduced its official relations with Lithuania to below ambassador level after Taiwan, the island democracy that Beijing claims as part of its own territory, was allowed to open a representative office in the Baltic nation.

Beijing earlier expelled the Lithuanian ambassador and withdrew its own envoy to the country. The foreign ministry said Sunday relations would be downgraded to the level of charge d’affaires, an embassy’s No. 2 official.

China’s reaction underscores its sensitivity about the ruling Communist Party’s claim to Taiwan, which has been separated politically from the mainland since 1949 following a civil war.

Taiwan has just 15 formal diplomatic allies, but maintains informal ties with all major nations through trade offices that act as de facto embassies, including in the United States and Japan.