China hits out at Slovenia for plan to strengthen Taiwan ties

Beijing on Wednesday hit out at Slovenia after the European Union country said it plans to strengthen ties with the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

China claims democratic Taiwan as its territory, to be retaken one day by force if necessary, and has stepped up efforts to diplomatically isolate it in recent years.

“We have noted that the Slovenian leader has openly made a dangerous statement challenging the One-China principle, supporting ‘Taiwan independence'”, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular briefing Wednesday.

“We are deeply shocked and strongly opposed to this.”

The backlash comes after Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said his country is preparing an exchange of representatives with Taiwan.

“We are working on establishing… well, on exchanging representatives,” Jansa said in an interview to India’s Doordarshan national television, published on the government’s website.

He added the move would have come much earlier if he had the support in parliament and argued that the vast majority of EU member countries already have “some kind of representative offices” with Taiwan.

Jansa’s comment was welcomed by Taipei.

“Prime Minister Jansa is a good friend of Taiwan and he had visited Taiwan multiple times before,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said on Tuesday.

Slovenia — a former Yugoslav state that joined the EU in 2004 — has been part of China’s “17 + 1” cooperation group created in 2012 to promote Chinese investments in Central and Eastern European countries.

But its warming ties with Taiwan threaten to fuel ongoing tensions between the EU and Beijing.

Lithuania’s decision last year to allow Taiwan to open a representative office under its own name infuriated Beijing, which downgraded diplomatic ties with the Baltic state in November and imposed a trade embargo.