Turkey "highly likely" to sign Chinese missile deal: official

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Turkey is highly likely to sign a deal to co-produce a missile defence system with a Chinese firm under U.S. sanctions after it placed the lowest bid of US$3.44 billion (S$ 4.3 billion) in a tender, a senior defence ministry official said on Thursday.

Murad Bayar, Undersecretary of Defence Industries at the Defence Ministry, told reporters in Ankara that Turkey could finalise the deal with China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) within six months.

The United States has expressed "serious concerns" over North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey cooperating with CPMIEC, under sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

Mr Bayar said Turkey was not sharing any information on NATO defence systems with China and that, if the deal went ahead, almost all production would take place in Turkey.

NATO sources have said Turkish collaboration with China on the system could raise questions of compatibility of weaponry and of security. For China, it would be a breakthrough in its bid to become a supplier of advanced weapons.

Mr Bayar said CPMIEC's bid came in significantly lower than rival systems from Russian, U.S. and European firms. He said the Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T system was second and Raytheon Co , a U.S. company that builds the Patriot missile, was third. A Russian bid had been eliminated, Mr Bayar said.