US Concerned About Turkey's Missile Defense Deal with China
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The United States is seriously concerned about Turkey's decision to choose a Chinese company for its long-range air and missile defense system , its envoy said on Thursday, but dismissed talk of a broader rift with Ankara.
“We are very concerned about a prospective deal between Turkey and Chinese firm that is sanctioned (by the United States),” ambassador Francis Ricciardone told reporters.
“Yes, this is a commercial decision ... It’s Turkey’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about defense acquisitions or anything else,” he said.
“There is no challenge, there’s no disagreement between us but we are seriously concerned about what this means for allied missile air defense.”
Ankara’s announcement last month that it was launching discussions with the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMIEC) for the deal -- worth $4 billion, according to media reports -- irritated Turkey’s allies in NATO, particularly the United States, DefenseNews reported.
Ricciardone said Washington began expert-level discussions with Turkey in order to make sure the full facts about the Chinese company are taken into consideration.
“We are concerned but Turkey will make its own decision in line with the ... examination of the facts,” Ricciardone said
“We are now dealing with a strategic mutual defense question,” rather than a merely commercial question.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday defended his government’s decision to enter talks with China but said no deal had yet been finalized.
“For the moment, China is offering the best conditions” including meeting Ankara’s demand to co-produce the missiles, he said, but gave no date for a decision.
CPMIEC, which makes the HQ-9 missile system, beat out competition from a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, Russia’s Rosoboronexport, and Italian-French consortium Eurosam.
The Chinese company has been hit by a series of US sanctions over the past decade, accused of selling arms and missile technology to Iran and Pakistan.
NATO said missile systems within the transatlantic military alliance must be compatible with each other.
“I feel confident Turkey is aware of this NATO position and ... will take that into account before taking the final decision,” NATO’s chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday.
Ankara however brushed off NATO’s concerns, with Erdogan saying that “member countries routinely have Russian arms and equipment in their inventories.”
“No one has the right to intervene in (Turkey’s) independent decisions,” he said.
Turkey launched the tender for 12 missile batteries in 2009. It had previously defended the choice of CPMIEC saying it had offered the best price.
China's foreign ministry has dismissed Western concerns about the plans, saying the United States and others were needlessly politicizing a commercial deal.
Turkish officials also insist the move is not politically motivated and say China's offer met its primary demands on price and the ability to place much of the production in Turkey.