Turkey is pushing to co-manufacture warplanes and missiles with Pakistan, a hookup that could also give it access to prized war technology from China.
Turkish defense and government officials have held periodic talks with Pakistani counterparts — the last high-level discussion was in January — about developing and manufacturing military hardware with Pakistan, according to people from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations. The people didn’t say when they’ll meet again or how close they are to an agreement.
A deal would get NATO-member Turkey closer to some of China’s military technology. Pakistan builds its JF-17 fighter jets with China and is said to have adapted Chinese designs for its Shaheen ballistic missile.
Turkey sees nuclear power Pakistan as a strategic ally and potential partner in building its Siper long-range missile-defense project and TF-X fighter jet, the people familiar said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss strategic goals. The people didn’t say whether the talks have gotten to the point of seeking Beijing’s consent to share Chinese defense technology.
Asked about restrictions imposed on weapons exports, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the Chinese government “has always adopted a prudent and responsible attitude in the export of military products and strictly implements China’s military export management laws and regulations as well as its international duties.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed “very serious potential” for collaboration with Pakistan on defense projects, and top defense officials have met in recent months. Pakistani Defense Secretary Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain met with top Turkish officials including Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in December, and discussed defense industry cooperation, the people familiar said. Akar has also met with Pakistan’s defense minister, military chief and air force chief, and accompanied Erdogan on a visit to Pakistan over the past year.
The countries already have some cooperation in the defense industry, including co-producing warships Turkey has sold Pakistan.
Turkish adoption of Chinese military technology could cause new frictions with the U.S., which would be loath to see Ankara move further away from the Western military alliance. Washington is already sanctioning Turkey for buying a missile-defense system from Russia, and has suspended Turkish companies from participating in the development of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth fighter jet.
The Turkish officials who spoke on the contacts with Pakistan said the outreach meshes with Ankara’s aspiration to become a power center in an increasingly multipolar world.
Turkey signed the S-400 deal with Russia two years after it scrapped plans to buy a Chinese missile defense system, under pressure from the U.S. Ankara is now negotiating a potential purchase of a second S-400 system, and a co-production deal with Moscow.
The U.S. has said Turkey did not want to buy comparable U.S. Patriot batteries while Ankara said Washington refused to share technology of the American system. Turkey is also bitter about its NATO allies in Europe who have not agreed to provide engines for its fighter jet and tank projects.
After a meeting chaired by Erdogan on Tuesday, Turkey’s defense procurement agency said Turkey’s defense industry was “being targeted by open and secret embargoes.”
“Turkey will confidently take steps toward its target of having a fully independent defense industry with its determination to design, develop and produce local and national systems,” the agency, known as the SSB, said.
— With assistance by Faseeh Mangi, and Lucille Liu
(Updates with background and statement from Turkey’s defense agency in last three paragraphs)
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