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Responding to Pentagon report, China stresses cross-Strait peaceful development

  BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese mainland spokesperson Wednesday stressed the peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait while commenting on a U.S. report on the weakness of Taiwan's air force.

  "Compatriots across the Strait are of the same family and blood bond. We believe only the harmony among family members will benefit everyone," Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a regular press conference in Beijing.

  The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report, cited by the U.S. media on Monday, said far fewer of Taiwan's 400 combat aircraft in service are operationally capable.

  The report was speculated as a move of Pentagon to provide justification for Washington to grant the sale of relatively advanced F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan.

  Asked to comment on the speculation, Fan said, "The deeper the peaceful development across the Strait goes, the more welfare and interests of Taiwan people will be protected and the stronger their confidence of the future will be."

  "Chinese on both sides of the Strait are capable of handling the cross-Strait issues with their own wisdom," she added.

  The U.S. government announced plans to sell an arms package to Taiwan at the end of January, triggering strong protests from China.

  On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang again called on the United States to work for the improvement of bilateral relations.

  He said the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and U.S. President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama "had seriously damaged China-U.S. relations."