Yin did not suggest where any such base would be located.

Chinese naval vessels have been operating in the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa for a year, escorting both Chinese and foreign ships through the waters where Somali pirates operate.

"If China establishes a similar long-term supply base, I believe that the nations in the region and the other countries involved with the escorts would understand," Yin said.

"I think a permanent, stable base would be good for our operations."

Suspicions

Chinese vessels currently use a French naval base to resupply. The US, European Union and Japan all have supply bases in the region, Yin said.

Such a base would provide a steady source of fresh fruit, vegetables and water, along with facilities for communications, ship repair, rest and recreation, and medical evacuation of injured personnel, he said.

Yin said he was aware that Chinese naval ships in the waters near the Gulf have aroused suspicions, but believed other nations understood Beijing's intention was to counter pirates.

However, increased naval activity military activity around a series of disputed atolls and rocks in the South China Sea has worried Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, which have their own territorial claims over the area.

India, meanwhile, has repeatedly expressed its concerns over Beijing's funding of the construction of a deepwater port at Gwadar in Pakistan.

China has an avowed policy of not maintaining foreign military bases, but there have previously been reports that it is interested in establishing naval bases in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and the South China Sea to protect its sea-transportation lines.