The United States is in the midst of talks with Turkey about its pending deal to purchase Chinese missile-defense technology, which a U.S. official said could have negative implications for the collective security of NATO, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ankara announced in September it had chosen the Chinese-state owned China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp. to provide Turkey with a long-range air-and-missile-defense system at a cost of $4 billion. The forthcoming deal has worried some U.S. lawmakers and the head of NATO, because of worries the Chinese technology will not be compatible with other alliance member states' antimissile technology. Those systems are supposed to be able to connect with each another, in accordance with a plan to establish a comprehensive ballistic-missile shield. There are also concerns Chinese developers could install digital backdoors into the technology so that they could gain access to NATO data and military plans.
"We are now dealing with a strategic mutual-defense question" and not simply a business decision, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said to journalists in Ankara.
"It's Turkey's sovereign right to make its own decisions about defense acquisitions," the ambassador 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."
The United States is carrying out specialist-level talks with Turkey with the aim of making sure Ankara is aware of all technical details as it weighs entering into a final deal with China, Ricciardone said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday stood by the decision to choose the Chinese firm over bids offered by European and American weapons contractors that were more expensive.
"For the moment, China is offering the best conditions," which include fulfilling Turkey's desire for the antimissile system to be co-produced to allow for technology transfer, Erdogan said. He did not specify when a final determination on going forward with the deal might be made.
Erdogan disregarded criticisms the Chinese technology would not be compatible with other NATO systems, noting that "member countries routinely have Russian arms and equipment in their inventories."