"I believe the Chinese navy should send naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy duties."

Jin is the head of a strategy institute at the National Defence University in Beijing.

He did not say that naval action was under imminent consideration. But his comments may reflect growing debate inside China about ways of fighintg piracy, in a country whch has generally confined its naval strength to waters closer to home.

'National pride'

He also said that national pride was at stake.

"If we don't take effective action, how will they see us abroad, and how will Chinese people view their government?", he said.

A surge in attacks at sea this year in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean has pushed up insurance costs, brought the pirates tens of millions of dollars in ransom and prompted a growing fleet of foreign warships to the area.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for countries to use military force against the pirates operating out of Somalia.

Nato ships began anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast in late October, but they have failed to stop the spate of hijackings from continuing.