Turkey’s planned China arms deal ruffles feathers

(By Deutsche Welle) NATO member Turkey has agreed to enter negotiations with China over the delivery of a missile defense system, upsetting the United States and leading to a swift reaction from Washington.

The Turkish government’s preliminary decision to opt for a Chinese-made missile defense system over EU and US alternatives has angered Washington, with the State Department warning that Chinese technology cannot be integrated into NATO’s defense infrastructure.

Ankara has agreed to begin negotiations with Beijing over the delivery of 12 FD-2000 missile defense batteries, worth an estimated $3.4 billion (2.4 billion euros). Although the deal has not yet been signed, the Turkish Defense Ministry has openly said it prefers the Chinese offer, citing the cheap price and Beijing’s willingness to transfer the FD-2000’s technology to Ankara.

“We had asked for joint production and technology transfer,” Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz told the Vatan newspaper. “If other countries cannot guarantee us that, then we will turn to ones that can.”

But the Chinese company handling the deal has also been sanctioned by the United States as a result of its previous exports. The China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) has allegedly transferred arms to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

“We have conveyed our serious concerns about the Turkish government’s contract discussions with the US-sanctioned company for a missile defense system that will not be inter-operable with NATO systems or collective defense capabilities,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing for reporters.

According to Turkish foreign policy expert Sinan Ülgen, Ankara is not seeking to send any sort of political message to its NATO allies by opting for a system produced by a US-blacklisted company. Instead, Beijing’s offer was simply better than those made by the US companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as well as the Franco-Italian firm Eurosam.

“This [Chinese] company happened to fulfill the criteria Turkey had set for itself in terms of price, in terms of performance and in terms of technology transfer,” Ülgen , with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW.

“And Turkey’s own national objectives were more important than the fact that this company happened to sanctioned by the US,” Ülgen said.

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