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Despite Sea Feud, Beijing Says, Ties With Manila Can Flourish

FILE - Protesters picket the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines, March 3, 2014.

The Chinese ambassador in Manila says trade between China and the Philippines grew last year despite their protracted territorial conflicts, providing hope their relations could flourish even as the tensions remain.

Ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Wednesday also played down reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping may skip the annual APEC summit, to be hosted by Manila in November, because of the conflicts. The ambassador said no decision has been reached because the Philippine government only sent its invitation recently.

Zhao reiterated China's offer for both countries to settle their differences through one-on-one negotiation and not through international arbitration. A Philippine complaint about China's sea claims is pending at an international tribunal.

Regional disputes over the South China Sea flared last year when Beijing began building up islands in seven disputed reefs.