SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is not looking at renaming Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the country and remains committed to its one-China policy, foreign minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday, amid strain in diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Payne said she had not held any talks with Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims as its own, about the possibility of changing the name of its representative office in Australia.
“No discussions of that nature,” Payne told a news briefing held in the capital of Canberra with visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. “Australia remains committed to our one-China policy.”
The comments came as China downgraded ties with Lithuania and pressed multinationals to sever links with the Baltic state after the island opened a Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius last year, avoiding use of the more common term, Taipei.
Australia has also joined the United States and Britain in backing a European Union trade case against China at the WTO over Beijing’s alleged trade curbs on Lithuania that it says threaten the integrity of the EU’s single market.
Landsbergis, who was in Canberra to open Lithuania’s embassy, welcomed Australia’s WTO move, adding that said nations seeking to use trade as a retaliatory measure must be reminded that “like-minded countries have tools and regulations that help withstand the coercion.”
The Lithuanian minister added, “For quite a while, Australia was probably one of the main examples when China was using economy and trade as a political instrument … now Lithuania joins this exclusive club.”
Relations between Australia and top trade partner China are at a low ebb over after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Beijing responded with tariffs on several Australian commodities, such as barley, beef, coal and wine.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)