ANKARA: Turkey on Wednesday defended its decision to acquire its first long-range anti-missile system from China, in spite of protests from its ally Washington.
"The Chinese gave us the best price," Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz told Vatan newspaper, explaining that the system's Chinese manufacturer had agreed to a co-production deal with Turkey.
China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp (CPMIEC) beat out competition from a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, Russia's Rosoboronexport, and the Italian-French consortium Eurosamrs in the tender, worth a reported $4 billion (3 million euro).
The United States has reacted with alarm to news that Ankara has chosen the Chinese firm, slapped with US sanctions for delivering arms to Iran and Syria, to build the air defence and anti-missile system.
"We had asked for joint production and a technology transfer," the Turkish minister said. "If other countries cannot guarantee us that, then we will turn to ones that can."
NATO member Turkey is a key regional ally to the United States, and currently has US-built Patriot missile systems deployed on its border to deter incoming attacks from Syria.
NATO has also raised concerns over possible compatibility issues between the Chinese-made system and others used within the alliance.
Yilmaz dismissed its concerns, saying: "There is no problem on that front."