A top Chinese military official says China needs a permanent naval base overseas to support its anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
In an interview posted on China's defense ministry Web site, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo said the base would help the Chinese military fulfill its international commitments.
Yin noted that any decision to establish such a base would have to be decided by the ruling Communist Party and its Central Military Commission.
China has operated patrols for a year now in the narrow gulf, escorting Chinese and foreign ships through waters menaced by pirates operating off the Somali coast.
The proposal comes just days after a Chinese cargo ship and its crew of 25 were rescued from Somali pirates.
Over the past year, China has sent four flotillas to the region, with the first escort fleet spending 124 days at sea without docking.
Since then, Chinese vessels have been allowed to dock and resupply at a French naval base. Yin noted that the U.S., European Union and Japan all have bases in the region.
Beijing wants a more active naval presence abroad to protect sea lanes through which its vital foreign trade and natural resources travel.
As the world's largest importer of crude oil, China has been reported to be interested in establishing naval bases in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Burma, Pakistan, Thailand and the South China Sea to protect its sea transportation lines.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.