The Czech delegation to Taiwan, headed by Senate leader Miloš Vystrčil, has sparked diplomatic tensions with China and criticism from both Chinese and Czech government officials.

“We will make him pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behavior and political opportunism,” stated China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, on Monday. The statement further provoked counter-criticism from various Czech politicians.

“The comment is out of place and inappropriate, and the minister has promised to deal with it on the official line,” said Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who, along with President Miloš Zeman, notably opposed the decision to visit Taiwan amid possible tensions with China. As reported in Seznam Zprávy, the Czech Foreign Minister, Tomáš Petříček, both emphasized commitment to the one-China policy and stressed “fundamental disagreement” with how China was conducting diplomatic relations with Czechia.

The stated purpose of the delegation’s trip is to improve the Czech-Taiwan business relationship, and establish a deeper cultural relationship. The delegation includes Prague’s Mayor, Zdeněk Hřib, the first deputy chairman of the upper house of Parliament, Jiří Růžička, as well as representatives of 36 Czech companies. The five-day trip will include Vystrčil’s address to Taiwan’s parliamentary body and a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen, according to DW.

Vystrčil first arrived in Taiwan on Sunday and was met by Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. “There are three purposes for this trip. We will try to support our entrepreneurs in establishing good business contacts, concluding interesting contracts and thus improving the competitiveness of our economy, both in terms of exports to Taiwan and in terms of increasing Taiwanese investment in the Czech Republic,” said Vystrčil, according to iDnes. Seznam Zprávy noted that Czechia is Taiwan’s fourth largest business partner in Europe, and that engineering and IT are the most prominent areas of cooperation.

Just prior to the delegation’s arrival, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhao Lijian stressed that “China condemns this despicable act and urges the Czech side to abide by the one-China principle and handle Taiwan-related issues in a prudent and appropriate manner,” in reference to the “one-China principle,” which all EU nations, including Czechia, continue to uphold. The principle states that the People’s Republic of China has the sole legitimate claim to the sovereignty of the Chinese state, which was established after Mao Zedong’s communists defeated the Chinese Nationalist Party forces in a civil war.

According to Chinese state media, Wang added on Monday that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory…the Chinese government and its people will not sit idle, and must let the anti-Chinese forces pay a heavy price for their short-sightedness and political speculation.”

The Czech-China relationship has deteriorated since December 2019, when Prague decided to cut ties with Beijing and establish sister-city ties with Taipei, Taiwan’s capital.