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Decision on Chinese Antimissile System Expected in Six Months: Turkey

A senior Turkish official on Thursday said it will likely take around six months for the government to decide whether to purchase a controversial Chinese antimissile system, Reuters reported.

"The immediate goal for us is in about six months to come to a reasonable level in our contract negotiations [with China] and to understand whether it is possible to implement this program," Turkish Undersecretary for Defense Industries Murad Bayar said at a defense-industry event in Turkey.

Turkey surprised and frustrated its NATO allies with the September announcement it would enter into contract negotiations with a Chinese weapons manufacturer to acquire the FD-2000 missile defense system, even though the firm is under U.S. sanctions for violating a domestic nonproliferation law. Washington and NATO oppose the purchase on the grounds the Chinese technology would not be interoperable with the other antimissile assets of the alliance and could pose a cyber-security threat if it is connected to the NATO ballistic-missile shield.

Speaking at a joint media briefing with Bayar, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said, "I feel very confident ... the Turkish authorities are very much aware" of the alliance convention that member states' antimissile systems should be interoperable.

Ankara has asked the European and American defense firms that were in the running for the missile defense contract to maintain their bids while it decides whether to purchase the Chinese system.

"Our procurement process is such that we begin with the first company with the intention to sign the contract but of course if there are difficulties that are not foreseen ... we go down through the rank," Bayar said.

A proposal by the Italian-French team of Eurosam to provide the SAMP/T Aster 30 system came in second after the Chinese bid while the Patriot antimissile technology offered by U.S. contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin came in third place, Defense News reported. Turkey is seeking missile interceptors, launchers and radar for its national missile defense system.

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