China is readying a huge fleet of ro-ro and ropax ferries that could take part in an invasion of Taiwan, analysts claim.

Security sources cited by the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper said the Chinese ships are being earmarked to carry armoured vehicles and troops.

The vessels could help fill a shortfall in amphibious landing craft controlled by China’s navy.

“Amphibious landings under fire are among the most difficult of military manoeuvres,” according to Ray Powell, the director of SeaLight, a Stanford University project examining shipping activities in the South China Sea.

He told the Telegraph that passenger ships would normally be poor choices for such a mission but could be used after coastal defences are destroyed.

The Chinese government launched two days of military drills in the waters around Taiwan on Thursday.

They were described as “strong punishment” for “separatist acts” following a defiant address in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, earlier that week by new president Lai Ching-te.

China still regards the island as part of its territory.

US intelligence believes Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the army to be ready for an invasion by 2027.

The US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute has reported that 10 years ago, China issued technical guidelines for its shipyards that would allow ro-ros and ropaxes to be suitable for military use.

‘Joined the army’

Chinese state media has regularly celebrated ferries taking part in landing drills.

State broadcaster CCTV said Dalian Marine Transport’s 938-passenger car ferry Bang Chui Dao (built 1995) had “joined the army” for military exercises in 2019.

Alessio Patalano, professor of war & strategy in East Asia at the department of war studies, King’s College London, said: “Including these assets represents a significant complicating factor in those who need to think about how to meet the challenge of their use.

“There is nothing concealed about the Chinese military build-up.”

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