"Disguised as regular shipping containers, they can be sneaked on board a vessel to blend in seamlessly with the hundreds of others on board," The U.S. Sun reported this week citing a video posted to the site, adding that they could be the perfect cover.
"The sheer number of container ships in the world makes them harder to pinpoint than warships in the event of war," the outlet said, adding:
Like the fabled Trojan Horse, the missiles would be quietly smuggled into or near an enemy port on a civilian vessel before being unleashed in a surprise attack.
Rick Fisher, senior fellow in Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, told The Sun Online while Chinese have not officially confirmed they have the missiles - it is likely they have them.
And it was warned in a study by Stockton Center for International Law that the weapons could violate naval laws.
Previously, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said that disguised missile containers would certainly pose a significant threat to American and allied warships.
News of the secretive missiles comes as China continues to spend billions on beefing up its military. In 1990, for instance, China spent less than $10 billion; but in 2020, Beijing spent nearly $253 billion to modernize and expand its military and especially its naval capabilities to include the construction of new aircraft carriers, destroyers and amphibious assault vessels.
"A mock-up of the missiles first appeared at an arms fair in 2016 and since then there has been speculation since they may now be in service with China’s armed forces," The U.S. Sun reported.
Fisher said that the missiles fit in with China's overall military strategy of using deception to gain an advantage.
"Chinese strategic preferences for surprise would strongly argue for acquisition” of the missiles, he told the outlet, adding that the weapons would be placed aboard "nondescript small Chinese ships in order to mount surprise missile raids against shore defenses to assist follow on amphibious or airborne invasion forces."
He added that shipping container missile launchers are likely to be smuggled in through seaports or highway ports of entry, taken to a climate-controlled location within range of U.S. military bases, and brought out to be utilized at the start of any conflict.
The container missiles give Chinese President Xi Jinping a range of options including "using larger container ships, thousands of fishing ships or stored containers in ports, to undertake military or terror mission strikes in a manner that can be denied if desired."
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is fully capable of using containerized missiles to sow chaos when desired," he added.
For example, Fisher said that China could store the container-launchers near the Port of Seattle, then utilize an electromagnetic pulse weapon to debilitate American naval platforms.
"The EMP blast might take out electronics on the [submarines] and all over the base without having to launch a nuclear missile from China," he said.
"Washington would be in chaos, would not know against whom to retaliate, and perhaps China uses American distraction to begin its real objective, the military conquest of Taiwan," he added.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Sun that the weapons placed in the containers "are an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, which is a version of the Russian Club-K weapon," the outlet reported.
"If this capability is confirmed, it will require a completely new screening regime for all PRC flagged commercial ships bound for U.S. ports," Fanell, the retired U.S. Navy captain, told The Sun.
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