• REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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Taiwan and Europe must work together to defend against authoritarianism and disinformation, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting lawmakers from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Monday.

Lithuania has faced sustained pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, since allowing the opening of a de facto Taiwanese embassy in its capital.

Beijing has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty claims and to limit its international participation, though Tsai says Taiwan will not bow to threats and will defend its freedom and democracy.

The visit comes a day after China sent the biggest sortie of warplanes toward Taiwan in more than seven weeks after a U.S. lawmaker defied a Chinese demand that she abandon a trip to the island.

Tsai told the lawmakers at the Presidential Office that Taiwan and the Baltic nations — once part of the Soviet Union — share similar experiences of breaking free from authoritarian rule and of fighting for freedom.

“The democracy we enjoy today was hard earned. This is something we all understand most profoundly,” she said.

“Now the world faces challenges posed by the expansion of authoritarianism and threat of disinformation. Taiwan is more than willing to share its experience at combating disinformation with its European friends. We must safeguard our shared values to ensure our free and democratic way of life.”

Matas Maldeikis, leader of the Lithuanian parliament’s Taiwan Friendship Group, told Tsai in response their group was in Taipei to express their solidarity with the island.

“Lithuanian government policy towards Taiwan has wide support in our society. Preserving freedom and the rules-based international order is in the vital interests for both Taiwan and Lithuania,” he said.

There is much opportunity for economic and cultural cooperation, added Maldeikis, whose trip has been condemned by China.

No European Union member state has official ties with Taiwan.

The United States has strongly backed its NATO ally Lithuania in its spat with China.

Lithuania faces problems too with pressure from Russia and Belarus, with migrants on its border with Belarus.

On Sunday, 27 Chinese aircraft, including eight J-16 fighter jets, entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone, according to a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a post on the ministry’s Twitter account that the “coercive action is obviously meant to bring #Taiwan to its knees & keep us away from democratic partners.”

“But make no mistake: We’ll never bow to #CCP pressure. Never, never, never!” said Wu, who is among three leading Taiwanese figures sanctioned by Beijing for what it says are separatist activities.

A Y-20 aerial refueling tanker was sighted for the first time in a sortie by China, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported, citing the Defense Ministry. The plane, which flew its maiden flight in 2019, can carry about 60 tons of fuel.

The deployment of warplanes was the largest since Oct. 4, when People’s Liberation Army aircraft conducted a record 56 flights near Taiwan just after Beijing marked the 72nd anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

The latest flights come after a group of U.S. lawmakers including Elissa Slotkin visited Taiwan as part of a trip that included stops in Japan and South Korea. Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, said she had received “a blunt message” from the Chinese Embassy urging that she cancel her trip.

When a separate group of U.S. legislators arrived in Taiwan on an American military plane earlier in November, China’s military said it conducted joint operations in the Taiwan Strait in response to “the erroneous words and deeds of relevant countries on the Taiwan question.”

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