WASHINGTON – China said Friday it would suspend talks with the United States on a range of issues and would impose sanctions on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her family as tensions between the two nations escalated over Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it would suspend or cancel dialogue with the U.S. on issues ranging from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts. China did not say specifically what sanctions it would levy against Pelosi and her immediate family over what it called her “egregious provocations” in visiting Taiwan, an island that China claims as its own territory.
China acted because Pelosi visited Taiwan “in disregard of China’s strong opposition and serious representations,” the ministry said in a statement.
In another sign of deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing, the White House summoned China’s ambassador to the White House on Thursday to launch a formal protest over Beijing’s recent aggressive actions against Taiwan.
China on Thursday launched threatening military exercises in six zones just off Taiwan’s coasts that it says will run through Sunday. Missiles also have been fired over Taiwan, defense officials told state media.
“We condemned (China’s) military actions, which are irresponsible, at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability and across the Taiwan Strait,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We made clear to the ambassador that Beijing’s actions are of concern to Taiwan, to us and to our partners around the world.”
China has claimed that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan amounts to an attack by the Biden administration on Chinese sovereignty. The White House has stressed that Pelosi is the head of the legislative branch of government and that it could not stop her visit.
The White House also has said Pelosi’s visit does not signal a shift in its one-China policy, which acknowledges that Taiwan is part of China.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
In an effort to ease the tensions, Kirby said the U.S. would postpone intercontinental ballistic missile test scheduled for this week. Kirby said the decision to reschedule the test was intended to demonstrate “the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception.”
Pelosi, the first U.S. speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said in Japan on Friday that China will not be able to isolate Taiwan by preventing U.S. officials from traveling there. The Chinese have tried to isolate Taiwan, Pelosi said, including most recently by preventing it from joining the World Health Organization.
“They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there,” Pelosi said as she wrapped up a swing across Asia. Pelosi and five other members of Congress arrived in Tokyo late Thursday after visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
China’s announcement on Friday threatened to accelerate the friction with Washington.
The Foreign Ministry said dialogue between U.S. and Chinese regional commanders and defense department heads would be canceled, along with talks on military maritime safety.
Cooperation on returning illegal immigrants, criminal investigations, transnational crime, illegal drugs and climate change will be suspended, the ministry said.
The Chinese military exercises launched Thursday involve its navy, air force and other departments and are to last until Sunday. They include missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military drills in 1995 and 1996 aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.
Taiwan has put its military on alert and staged civil defense drills, while the U.S. has numerous naval assets in the area. China also flew war planes toward Taiwan and blocked imports of its citrus and fish.
‘WE CAME TO TAIWAN TO LISTEN’: Pelosi gives strong backing to Taiwan’s democracy; US braces for Chinese military drills
Earlier Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan represent a “grave problem” that threatens regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles launched as part of the drills landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Kishida, speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and her congressional delegation, said the missile launches need to be “stopped immediately.”
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles landed on Thursday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan protested to China, saying the missiles “threatened Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, attending a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions are “severely impacting peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of the military exercises.”
Japan has in recent years bolstered its defense capability and troop presence in southwestern Japan and remote islands, including Okinawa, which is about 700 kilometers (420 miles) northeast of Taiwan. Many residents say they worry their island will be quickly embroiled in any Taiwan conflict. Okinawa is home to the majority of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.
SEE THE HISTORIC TRIP: Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid escalating tensions with China
At the breakfast earlier Friday, Pelosi and her congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concern over China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to working toward peace and stability in Taiwan, Kishida said. Pelosi was also to hold talks with her Japanese counterpart, lower house Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda.
Japan and its key ally, the U.S., have been pushing for new security and economic frameworks with other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe as a counter to China’s growing influence amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
Days before Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, a group of senior Japanese lawmakers, including former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited the island and discussed regional security with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Ishiba said Japan, while working with the United States to prevent conflict in the Indo-Pacific, wants a defense agreement with Taiwan.
On Thursday, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations issued a statement saying “there is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” It said China’s “escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region.”
China cited its displeasure over the statement for the last-minute cancellation of talks between the Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Cambodia on Thursday.
Pelosi held talks on Thursday in South Korea, also a key U.S. ally, which stayed away from the Taiwan issue, apparently to avoid upsetting China, focusing instead on North Korea’s increasing nuclear threat.
In recent years, South Korea has been struggling to strike a balance between the United States and China as their rivalry has deepened.
The Biden administration and Pelosi have said the United States remains committed to the so-called one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.
Pelosi has been a long-time advocate of human rights in China. She, along with other lawmakers, visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters at the square.
As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi’s trip has heightened U.S.-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress. The last House speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but multibillion-dollar business ties.
Contributing: The Associated Press.