The US and South Korea have agreed to establish a consultative forum to discuss defense technology co-operation including the experimental KF-X program.
The Pentagon said in a statement that US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo agreed to "establish an interagency working group to enhance cooperation on defense technology issues," but the statement made no mention of the technology transfer for the fighter jet project.
Carter on Thursday said that he would study ways of technological co-operation after rejecting Seoul’s request for transfer of key technologies for South Korean KF-X program.
Carter stated the position when Defense Minister Han Min-koo asked him to reconsider the decision to reject the technology transfer during a meeting at the Pentagon, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The two sides also "reaffirmed the strength of the US-ROK alliance as the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and across the Asia-Pacific region and strongly reassured both leaders of the United States' ironclad commitment to the defense of the ROK," the statement said.
In Seoul, South Korean officials tried to see a silver lining, saying the new consultation channel will play a pivotal role in defense industry cooperation between the allies, Yonhap news agency reported Friday.
"It's a working group for technology cooperation on the defense industry," a government official told reporters. "It will last for a considerable time down the road."
In the KF-X program, South Korea has been represented by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and Korea Aerospace Industries. Their American counterpart is Lockheed Martin.
With the formation of the new body, the military authorities of both South Korea and the US will be directly involved, the news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.
"Technical risks of the project will decrease," he said.
The KF-X project, under which South Korea is to produce 120 combat jets, hit a snag after the U.S. Department of State in April refused to grant permission for Lockheed Martin's export of four out of the 25 fighter jet technologies it has promised Seoul.