BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday that Turkey would decide in its “own interests” after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the country was in talks with France on buying a missile defense system following disagreements with Beijing.
U.S. and NATO officials have said Turkish collaboration on the system with China, which was originally awarded the tender, could raise questions of compatibility of weaponry and of security.
The missile deal constituted normal trade cooperation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
“The relevant Chinese company’s cooperation with Turkey is normal military trade cooperation. We believe that the Turkish side will make a decision that accords with its own interests,” Hua said when asked whether the deal was still on.
Franco-Italian Eurosam, which is owned by Franco-Italian missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales, came second in a tender last September, losing out to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp’s (CPMIEC) $3.4 billion offer.
Erdogan said the disagreements were about joint production and know-how during negotiations over the missile defense system.
The choice of CPMIEC for the project irked Western allies as the company is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation Act.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who told a defense industry forum last week that Russia and China were working hard to close a weapons technology gap with the United States, was in Ankara on Monday.
Last month, Turkey invited firms in the tender, including Eurosam and U.S.-listed Raytheon Co, the maker of Patriot missiles which came in third, to extend the validity of their bids, indicating Ankara was still considering alternative offers but stopped short of discussing problems with the Chinese deal.
In May, Turkish officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that China had not met the tender’s conditions.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Nick Macfie