China said Friday it has decided to impose sanctions on U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and suspend exchanges with Washington in a range of areas including climate change and military activities following her visit to Taiwan earlier this week.
The United States criticized Beijing for taking further "irresponsible" action by closing down engagement, with White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying a refusal to cooperate toward addressing greenhouse gas emissions can be seen as a punishment not only to the United States but to "the whole world."
China is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter and climate change has been one of the few areas with potential for cooperation between the United States amid their increasing rivalry.
On the sanctions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the step is in response to Pelosi's act of "egregious provocation," but did not elaborate on what kind of punitive measures will be imposed. Her immediate family will also be affected.
The ministry said in a statement that Pelosi disregarded China's grave concerns and firm opposition to her visit, undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Beijing regards the self-ruled democratic island as its own and has opposed anything it views as official interaction between the United States and the territory. Pelosi became the first U.S. House speaker in 25 years to visit Taiwan.
In retaliation, the Chinese military is holding a large-scale drill involving ballistic missile launches in areas encircling Taiwan through Sunday, and Beijing has restricted trade with the island.
A total of eight areas will also be subject to "countermeasures," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, including the cancellation of both a consultation mechanism on maritime security and dialogue between military leaders, as well as the suspension of bilateral talks on climate change and cooperation on drug control.
Kirby, who earlier slammed Beijing for the increased military activities near Taiwan, told reporters that China is now "refusing" to engage on critical steps necessary to combat the climate crisis.
He also condemned China's announcement of sanctions on Pelosi and her family members, adding that the speaker had "every right" to travel to the island.
According to Kirby, the U.S. government on Thursday summoned Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang to the White House to lodge a protest against Beijing's military activities.
"We made clear to the ambassador that Beijing's actions are of concern to Taiwan, to us, and to our partners around the world," he said in a statement.
Kirby reiterated Friday that the U.S. position is not to further escalate tensions with China, but emphasized that necessary actions will be taken to defend its national interests and fulfill its security commitments.
Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split in 1949 due to a civil war. Beijing regards the island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.