Turkey in Chinese missile deal

Turkey is likely to strike a $3.4 billion deal to acquire the Chinese FD-2000 missile defense system, in a move sparking objections of its NATO allies. Indeed Turkey preferred the Chinese deal to the U.S. or European defense systems.

The deal also confirms the growing presence of China in the Middle East.

Militarily, the U.S. – which maintains a permanent aircraft carrier presence near the Gulf as well as dozens of other warships and major bases in Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – is by far the dominant regional power, as Reuters points out.

China has tended to follow Russia’s lead on the Middle East, sometimes appearing sidelined on issues such as Syria.

But Beijing’s economic, political and diplomatic clout, is growing fast. China’s Ministry of Commerce said last month China-Arab nation trade now reaches $222 billion a year, 12 times its 2002 level. That would outstrip U.S.-Mideast trade, valued at $193 billion in 2011.

Militarily too, China’s footprint is rising. As well as maintaining a three-ship antipiracy task force in the Indian Ocean and occasionally sending ships to the Mediterranean, Beijing has deployed UN peacekeepers to Lebanon.

The firm that makes the missile system, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) is under US sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. While Turkish officials said the deal was not yet officially finalized, it was likely to go through.

U.S. and other NATO officials complain it may not be compatible with other NATO systems, Reuters points out, and may increase the risk of cyber attack or other interference across the alliance. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Western states were overreacting to what was essentially simply a commercial decision.

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