A top-ranking U.S. Defense official has wrapped up a trip to Turkey where he was engaged in efforts to convince Ankara not to go through with a plan to buy a controversial Chinese missile defense system, Today's Zaman reported on Thursday.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller "visited Turkey for bilateral consultations on regional security issues, including Syria, the U.S.-Turkish bilateral defense relationship and our partnership in NATO," an unidentified U.S. official at the embassy in Ankara said. No other specifics were provided about Miller's discussions with Turkish officials.
The United States and NATO are concerned that Ankara's preliminary decision to purchase the FD-2000 antimissile system from a Chinese state-owned company -- over other systems offered for sale by European and American firms -- could compromise the integrity of the ballistic-missile shield the alliance is striving to establish in Europe. NATO's missile-defense plans call for all member states to link-up their respective national antimissile systems. There are strong doubts the Chinese system would be compatible with other countries' technology. There also are worries that Chinese developers might install a cyber Trojan horse into the FD-2000 in the hopes of accessing classified NATO data and military plans.
In response to these concerns, Ankara has said no final decision has been made on which system it will purchase and has invited foreign weapons developers to enhance their bid proposals on the matter. Of primary concern to Turkey is whether the chosen system can be co-produced with domestic defense companies.
Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz on Thursday reminded journalists the process for finalizing a missile defense contract "has just started," the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
"If the second and third [companies in the list] send their [new] offers to us, that will be useful through the discussion phases with the current one," he said, adding, "everyone is free to send a last offer."
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland is scheduled to be in Turkey until Nov. 3. No information was provided in the State Department release on her trip on whether her meetings with Turkish officials would touch on the Chinese missile issue. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is also slated to travel to Washington for two-way talks on Nov. 18, according to the Hürriyet Daily News.