Turkish president Abdullah Gul announced today that a deal to buy Chinese made missiles was not final, bringing a second surprise to observers.
“The purchase is not definite,” Gul was quoted as saying in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. “There is a shortlist and China is at the top of it. We should look at the conditions, but there is no doubt that Turkey is primarily in NATO,” reported English-language news outlet Al Arabiya.
The Turkish President explained as he boarded a plane home from the U. S., “These are multi-dimensional issues, there are technical and economic dimensions and on the other hand there is an alliance dimension. These are being evaluated. Turkey needs a defense system.”
As a long time U.S. ally, Turkey’s decision last week to purchase surface to air missiles (SAMs) from a sanctioned Chinese arms dealer came as a surprise to the United State’s Defense Department and missile manufacturer Raytheon.
Turkey’s defense minister announced on Friday that NATO member Turkey had selected China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation’s (CPMIEC) HQ-9s missiles over other long-range air and missile defense systems offered by Russia, the U.S. or European firms.
CPMIEC offered the HQ-9s to Turkey for $1 billion less than the systems offered by U.S. and Russian defense manufacturers, reported IHS Jane’s, a well-known publisher on defense matters.
CPMIEC is the marketing arm of China’s state-owned missile manufacturing industry, and is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act
“We have conveyed our serious concerns about the Turkish government’s contract discussions with a U.S.-sanctioned company for a missile defense system that will not be inter-operable with NATO systems or collective defense capabilities,” a U. S. State Department spokeswoman told Reuters.
Raytheon Co, which builds the Patriot defense system deployed by NATO in Turkey, also bid on the missile system.
“NATO has long supported the system, deploying Patriots in five aligned countries and, in 2012, providing a requested Patriot deployment to Turkey. Given this strong performance, we hope to have an opportunity to debrief and learn more about this decision,” Raytheon spokesman Mike Doble told China Defense Blog.
Turkey has the second-largest deployable military force in the NATO alliance, says China Defense Blog, but does not at present have its own long-range missile defense system, although NATO has deployed the U.S.-built Patriot air and missile defense system there since 2012.
China viewed Turkey’s decision as evidence that Chinese defense manufacturers are ready to step into the European defense market, said Jane’s. With five percent of the market, last year China took the number five position among the world’s arms suppliers, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.