Beijing threatened yesterday to call off a scheduled warship visit to the United States, increasing the pressure on Washington in a simmering row over Taiwan. The move is in retaliation for a recent visit to the US by Taiwan Defence Minister Tang Yiau-ming, during which he met top military and foreign affairs officials at an arms conference in Florida, the mainland newspaper Global Times reported. On top of strong diplomatic protests, Beijing is prepared to cancel a visit to the US by a PLA navy fleet scheduled for later this year, the report said. It would mean that a visit later this year to China by a US navy fleet would also be out of the question, according to the report. The exchange visits - news of which had not been reported before - were important for both sides, it said. If the cancellation was confirmed it would 'shake up the hawkish elite' in the US who have pushed for closer links and more weapon sales to Taiwan. Mainland analysts said yesterday that the threat to cancel the port call was mainly posturing and part of a plan to force Washington to back down over the issue of Taiwan after a series of incidents that have stretched Beijing's patience. One aim was to force Washington to explain a leaked Pentagon nuclear policy review which reportedly said the US was ready to use nuclear weapons should a war break out across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing would also like a promise that Washington will not embarrass it again in the near future by allowing former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui or other Taiwan military officials to visit the US. Mr Tang's US visit had caused 'strong displeasure' among the top echelon of the mainland's leadership, said the newspaper, which is controlled by the People's Daily. Chu Shulong, director of the institute of strategic studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said: 'The US has underestimated China's reactions to [Mr Tang's US visit] and believed that China could not do anything about it. 'In fact, Beijing has prepared a series of responses.' He said that if Washington did not meet Beijing's demands, ongoing Sino-US talks on arms controls could also be affected. Beijing could also ban US warships from making port calls to Hong Kong. And he said Vice-President Hu Jintao's US visit, which is scheduled for late next month or early May, and President Jiang Zemin's scheduled trip to the US in October, might also be affected. Professor Chu's opinions were echoed by Gao Heng, a research fellow with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Science. He said China would escalate its protests should the US fail to respond to its demands in the near future. The Foreign Ministry has twice summoned US Ambassador Clark Randt recently for a dressing down over Mr Tang's US visit and his March 11 meeting with US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - the highest official contact between Washington and Taipei for at least 22 years. Beijing is also angry over reports that Washington is ready to allow other Taiwanese military officials to visit, as well as Lee Teng-hui. On Saturday, Beijing accused Washington of nuclear blackmail and of undermining Sino-US relations, in the strongest language used against the United States in months. In May 1999, China banned all military exchanges with the US in protest at the Nato bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The ban lasted until August 2000 when the US guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville made a port call to Qingdao in Shandong province.