‘China has missiles on civilian ships for surprise attack anywhere in the world’

China has reportedly been secretly developing missiles that it can hide in shipping containers in order to smuggle them into ports around the world undetected before being unleashed without warning.

With its own massive fleet of freighters on the world’s oceans, some Western observers believe the development is akin to China gaining a whole new fleet of warships, reports the Sun.

Disguised as normal containers, they can be sneaked onboard a vessel to blend in alongside the hundreds of others on a ship. The missiles could be quietly smuggled into an enemy port before being unleashed in a shocking surprise attack.

Rick Fisher, of the International Assessment and Strategy Centre, said that it was likely the Chinese had the stealth missiles.

The US and China are vying to be the world’s top superpower, both economically and militarily, and there have been frequent diplomatic clashes including over the future of Taiwan with China trying to take the island under its rule.

China has also ignored world condemnation of how it is treating more than a million Uyghur Muslims being held in internment camps in the country.

A prototype of the new missiles was shown at a 2016 arms fair, and since then there has been speculation they may now be actively deployed.

Mr Fisher said: “Chinese strategic preferences for surprise would strongly argue for acquisition” of the missiles. They would be fitted to “nondescript small Chinese ships in order to mount surprise missile raids against shore defences to assist follow-on amphibious or airborne invasion forces.

“The Chinese Communist Party is fully capable of using containerised missiles to sow chaos when desired.”

The only public record of a missile being fired from a container ship is a picture of a test carried out by Israel.

Meanwhile, think-tank the Stockton Centre for International Law said that secretly loading weapons on to civilian vessels could violate international law.

“Failure to comply with the law of armed conflict by surreptitiously incorporating merchant vessels into China’s war-fighting/war-sustaining effort endangers civilian seafarers and puts all civilian ships at risk that may be operating in the area of hostilities," it said in a report.

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