The visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has prompted a number of stark warnings from China, which has warned the act is major provocation.In response to Mrs Pelosi’s visit, China announced trade sanctions, curbing the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan. It is also halting shipments of sand to the island.The trip by Mrs Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency and the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, has ignited a diplomatic firestorm.She landed late Tuesday in the wake of increasingly stark warnings from China, which considers the island a part of its territory to one day be reclaimed, by force if necessary.Analysts believe more trade disruptions are comingChina’s Customs Administration said Wednesday it would suspend some citrus fruit imports from Taiwan over alleged “repeated” detection of excessive pesticide residue, and the import of fish owing to positive coronavirus tests on packages.In a separate notice, the Commerce Ministry added it would also “suspend the export of natural sand to Taiwan” from Wednesday, without providing details.Natural sand is generally used for producing concrete and asphalt, and most of Taiwan’s imported sand and gravel comes from China.The moves are part of a “common pattern for Beijing”, said Even Pay, an agriculture analyst at consultancy Trivium China.More disruptions in agricultural and food trade can be expected in the coming days, she added.”When diplomatic or trade tensions are running high, Chinese regulators typically take an extremely strict approach to compliance… looking for any issues that can be used to justify a trade ban,” she told AFP.China is Taiwan’s biggest trading partner and export market, with bilateral trade growing 26 per cent on year to $328 billion in 2021, official data shows.It is not the first time Beijing has taken aim at the island’s exports.China banned pineapple imports in March 2021, citing the discovery of pests, in a move that was widely seen as politically driven.China announces military drills to come within 20 km of Taiwan’s shorelineMeanwhile, Chinese authorities also announced planned live-fire military drills encircling Taiwan, in a move Taipei’s defence ministry said threatened key ports and urban areas.At some points, the zone of Chinese operations will come within 20 kilometres of Taiwan’s shoreline, according to coordinates shared by the People’s Liberation Army.Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of an invasion, but that threat has intensified under President Xi Jinping, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.Beijing has ramped up pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as she views the island as a de facto sovereign nation and not part of “one China”.’Taiwan will not back down’Taiwan’s president struck a defiant tone, saying there will be no “back down”.”Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not backdown. We will … continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at an event with Mrs Pelosi in Taipei.She also thanked Mrs Pelosi for “taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment”.”Today, our delegation … came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan,” she said at the event with Ms Tsai.Earlier, Mrs Pelosi said her group had come “in friendship to Taiwan” and “in peace to the region”.China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.The administration of President Joe Biden said in the run-up to the visit that US policy towards Taiwan remained unchanged.This means support for its government while diplomatically recognising Beijing over Taipei, and opposing a formal independence declaration by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China.While the White House is understood to be opposed to Mrs Pelosi’s Taiwan stop, its National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said she was entitled to go where she pleased.Australia joins other nations urging de-escalationJapan, a key US ally in the region, said on Wednesday it had expressed concern to China over the exercises, while South Korea called for dialogue to maintain regional peace and stability.Both countries are on Mrs Pelosi’s Asia itinerary, following stops in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said it is important any prospect of military conflict is avoided. “All parties should consider how they best contribute to de-escalating the current tensions, and we all want peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” she told ABC Radio on Wednesday.”We do have a situation where we see rhetoric increasing and we see military hardware being deployed.”Ms Wong reiterated Australia’s support for a one China policy, where Taiwan is not recognised as a country and that the government in Beijing is the only Chinese government.”Australia has a bipartisan one China policy, and we have a bipartisan of that, discouraging unilateral changes to the status quo,” she said.”We should continue with others in the region to urge the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.”
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