Turkey-China Antimissile Deal May Happen Soon: Sources

Turkey could ink an agreement to purchase a missile defense system from China on a shorter timescale than was previously thought, unidentified officials with the Turkish Defense Industries Undersecretariat said in a Thursday news report.

Defense officials representing Ankara told the Turkish-language newspaper Vatan that no technical issues have arisen after months of two-way contract discussions with China, al-Monitor reported. They predicted the two sides would sign a formal contract sooner than the six-months-to-a-year timeframe widely forecasted.

Ankara’s potential acquisition of the Chinese-made FD-2000 antimissile system is opposed by the United States and NATO, which argue the system would not be compatible with other alliance missile-defense technology and could pose a cyber-security threat.

The Turkish officials said they have been making considerable headway in developing a new computer program that will enable them to integrate the FD-2000 into the evolving NATO ballistic-missile shield. The officials claim the software would prevent both NATO and China from being able to gain access to one another’s digital networks.

A well placed NATO insider told al-Monitor that “regardless of the software Turkey talks about, we will not take the risk of incorporating our system with a Chinese system.”

A contract with the Chinese government-owned China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp. appears to be nine-tenths of the way completed, according to the sources.

Turkey’s foreign and defense ministers earlier this week both said that during recent trips to the United States, neither of them heard any objection to their government’s consideration of purchasing the Chinese technology.

“We discussed this issue of the missile defense system with [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry over the luncheon,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. “There was certainly no expression of unease about [the possible deal].”

Ankara has given U.S. and European defense contractors until the end of January to improve their previous bids to provide Turkey with a missile-defense system that includes interceptors, launchers and radar.

“If they select a system that’s not inter-operable, that’s their choice,” said Heidi Grant, the U.S. Air Force deputy undersecretary for international affairs, in an interview with Reuters. “They’ve chosen not to be inter-operable.”

She spoke while attending the Dubai Airshow earlier this week.