West News Wire: Slovenia’s ambitions to strengthen relations with self-governing Taiwan were denounced by China on Wednesday, a move that is likely to provoke diplomatic and economic punishment against the small Central European nation.

Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the country was “shocked by this and firmly opposed to it,” but offered no immediate specifics on how Beijing would respond.

“It is a reckless statement made by the Slovenian leader that brazenly opposes the one China concept and advocates Taiwan independence,” Zhao said at a daily briefing, referring to Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s remarks on Monday.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which it intends to subjugate by force if necessary, and has increased diplomatic pressure on the island in order to compel it to make political concessions.

“No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and the People’s Republic insists it is the sole legal representative of the island despite never having governed it.

Slovenia follows Lithuania’s move allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in its capital under the name “Taiwan,” rather than “Chinese Taipei” in a break with diplomatic convention.

American and Lithuanian officials say China has blocked imports from the northern European country since the Taiwanese government was allowed to open a trade office there under the name Taiwan.

The U.S. and most other governments, including Lithuania, have diplomatic relations only with Beijing but maintain commercial and informal political ties with Taiwan’s democratically elected government. Most governments acquiesce to Chinese pressure by requiring Taiwanese entities to operate under the name Chinese Taipei.

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Chinese pressure has reduced the number of Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies to just 14.

Beijing retaliated for Lithuania’s move by expelling the Lithuanian ambassador, and Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing.

Taiwan responded by setting up a $1 billion credit program aimed at funding projects by Lithuanian and Taiwanese companies, as well as creating a $200 million investment fund to help the Lithuanian economy.

Both Lithuania and Slovenia are members of the European Union, which has taken an increasingly forceful stance against aggressive political and economic moves by Beijing. Both are also members of NATO and plan to set up their own representative offices in Taiwan, a close U.S. ally.

 

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