BEIJING: China's foreign ministry said on Friday it had imposed sanctions on Lithuanian Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Agne Vaiciukeviciute for visiting Taiwan, the latest development in Beijing's diplomatic row with the European Union country.
The foreign ministry said China would suspend engagement with Vaiciukeviciute's ministry and cooperation on transportation with Lithuania, a small Baltic republic.
Lithuania's Ministry of Transport and Communications regrets China's announcement.
The Lithuanian ministry said in a statement to Reuters that Beijing is choosing to continue and intensify the course of illegal actions against an EU member state.
This is not only conducive to the development of China's relations with the democratic world, but it also reverses Beijing's policy so far of not hindering the development of a mutually beneficial relationship with Taiwan, one of the world's most progressive economies. China claims to have Taiwan as its territory and is against foreign politicians visiting the island. Taiwan is democratically governed, unlike China's claim.
Lithuania's recent bolstering of relations with Taiwan has infuriated Beijing and resulted in a fall in Lithuanian exports to China in the first quarter of this year.
Vaiciukeviciute said on Friday she had visited three cities and two seaports and had 14 meetings in Taiwan over a five-day period.
She tweeted that Lithuania and Taiwan were abbreviations after a productive week in Taiwan, looking for more ways of LT Transport cooperation with TW maritime, shipping and aviation companies.
Vaiciukeviciute visited Taiwan days after the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi did so. In response to Pelosi's visit, China launched massive military drills around Taiwan and imposed sanctions on Pelosi and trade restrictions with Taiwan.
When Jovita Neliupsiene, Lithuania's vice minister of the economy and innovation visited Taipei in June, she said Lithuania planned to open a representative office in Taiwan in September.
Lithuania has come under Chinese pressure to reverse a decision last year to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the capital Vilnius under its own name.
China has downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania, and pressured multinationals to sever ties with them.
In January, the EU launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization accusing China of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania and arguing that this threatened the integrity of the bloc's single market.
China said it has always followed WTO rules and that its problem with Lithuania is political, not economic in nature.