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Lithuania closes embassy in China after last diplomats leave amid Taiwan spat

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania said Wednesday that it has closed its embassy in Beijing and pulled its last diplomat out of the Chinese capital, a move that came amid a spat over the European Union nation allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in its capital, Vilnius.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Baltic country would carry out its diplomatic activities in China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory and does not give diplomatic recognition to nations that treat the island as a separate state.

The ministry said it had recalled Lithuania's charge d'affaires — the deputy chief of mission — in Beijing for consultations.

"Discussions are ongoing on the technical aspects of the operation of Lithuania's diplomatic representation in China and China's representation in Lithuania pending China's decision to renew the accreditation of Lithuanian diplomats in China," the Foreign Ministry said.

Lithuania was "ready to continue the dialogue with China and restore the functions of the embassy to their full extent once a mutually beneficial agreement is reached," the ministry added.

Beijing previously expelled the Lithuanian ambassador and withdrew its ambassador from Lithuania after the Lithuanian government allowed self-ruled Taiwan, which has a democratic system, to open an office in Vilnius.

The office opened in November and bears the name Taiwan rather than Chinese Taipei, which is used by the International Olympic Committee and many foreign nations to avoid offending China.

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.

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