China's slide into a deep trade deficit in February is likely to be temporary, and the country is still set to post an overall trade surplus for 2012, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday.

Our judgement is that the trade deficit in February is unlikely to persist. Overall, we will still see a trade surplus this year, but it will gradually shrink and account for a smaller percentage of GDP, Shen Danyang, the ministry spokesman, told reporters at a monthly briefing.

China revealed at the weekend that its trade balance plunged $31.5 billion into the red in February, the largest deficit in at least a decade, as imports overwhelmed exports from the country's vast factory sector, which has been battling a downturn in demand from its two biggest trading partners -- the EU and the United States.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Ken Wills)