BEIJING/TAIPEI - China on Wednesday (Aug 3) slapped sanctions on Taiwan in response to United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island, as the People's Liberation Army continued military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
Amid rising tensions over her visit to Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary, Mrs Pelosi said the US will not abandon the island.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen added that the island will not back down in the face of heightened military threats.
Beijing expressed its displeasure over the visit, which it views as a severe provocation, by displaying its military might and also tightening the economic screws on Taiwan.
It announced it would stop exporting natural sand to Taiwan with immediate effect. Taiwan gets 90 per cent of its supply of natural sand - mostly used in construction - from China because it is cheaper than importing from other places like Vietnam.
China also banned the import of citrus fruits and two types of fish from Taiwan. This comes on the back of Monday's suspension of imports from over 100 Taiwanese food manufacturers.
Taiwan has deep economic ties with the mainland, which is one of the island's largest trading partners.
China also flexed its military muscle. The Xinhua news agency reported that China will hold live-fire military drills from Thursday to Sunday in six areas around Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said 27 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Wednesday, of which 22 crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
China’s Eastern Theatre Command had on Tuesday night launched a series of joint military operations around the Taiwan Strait.
The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the State Council also announced sanctions against what it said were elements supporting Taiwanese independence, including the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund.
TAO also released several strongly worded statements, singling out Ms Tsai and Mrs Pelosi, saying their "provocations" will push the island into an "abyss of disaster".
Beijing views visits to Taiwan by foreign politicians as encouraging independence.
Mrs Pelosi's arrival on Tuesday night was met with a furious Chinese response that continued into Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused both Washington and Taipei of violating China's sovereignty.
"The introduction of the Taiwan question into the regional strategy by the US, which inflates tensions and stokes confrontation, is against the trend of regional development," he said. "This is very dangerous and stupid."
Beijing had also summoned US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns late on Tuesday night to voice its disapproval of the visit.
Mrs Pelosi, 82, and a delegation of US lawmakers met Ms Tsai on Wednesday when the US House Speaker was presented with a civilian honour, the Order of Propitious Clouds.
At a joint press briefing after the ceremony, Mrs Pelosi said the US wants Taiwan to always have freedom with security and will not back away from that.
While respecting the "one China" policy, US solidarity with Taiwan is more important than ever, Mrs Pelosi said, adding that the US supports the status quo and does not want anything to happen to Taiwan by force.
Ms Tsai, who thanked Mrs Pelosi for her concrete actions to support Taiwan at a critical moment, said the island is committed to maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, Asean foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia called for calm and restraint.
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "Stable US-China relations are vital for regional peace and prosperity. Singapore hopes that the US and China can work out a modus vivendi, exercise self-restraint and refrain from actions that will further escalate tensions."
Mrs Pelosi left Taiwan for South Korea on Wednesday evening after her whirlwind trip to the island, with a storm still brewing.