South Korean President Moon Jae-in held talks with Indonesia's defense minister Prabowo Subianto on Thursday ahead of an official ceremony to roll out the KF-X fighter jet tomorrow; but failed to break a deadlock over Indonesia’s continued participation in the KF-X project.
“Moon invited Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto in person to his office amid speculation that the bilateral partnership in the KF-X project may be sputtering,” Yonhap News reported.
"The South Korea-Indonesia joint project to develop a next-generation fighter jet symbolically shows the high level of trust and cooperation between the two nations along with a cooperation project on submarines," Moon said ahead of talks with the Indonesian minister.
Later, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, in Seoul on Thursday. According to a statement by Indonesia's Defense Ministry, the delegations held discussions on “key issues in defense and security as well as exchanged views on regional security and bilateral cooperation.”
Both the Indonesian and South Korean statements did not address issues that have been galling the KF-X jet project- Indonesia has not made its milestone payments after the initial tranche of 227.2 billion won ($203.4 million). In addition, Jakarta has not sent back Indonesian personnel working in Korea Aerospace Industries factory that were withdrawn when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.
Indonesia is the only foreign partner of the 8.8 trillion-won (US$7.9 billion) KF-X project to manufacture a 4.5 generation jet, called IF-X in Indonesia. Under the agreement inked in 2016, Indonesia will bear 20 percent of the project funding wherein 125 KF-X will be built for South Korea and 51 IF-X would be manufactured for Indonesia.
Reports of Jakarta losing interest in the IF-X project have been exacerbated by its consideration of the French Rafale or Boeing F-15 EX combat jets to quickly refurbish its fleet in the face of threats from China over control of maritime resources.
Earlier reports said that Jakarta wants to re-negotiate its contribution to 10% of project cost and that Seoul should set up a facility in Indonesia to assemble the IF-X aircraft. But these demands have not been agreed to by South Korea.
Besides the IF-X, Indonesia has planned to acquire some more South Korean military hardware, including the KT-1B Wong Bee turboprop basic training aircraft, supersonic advanced jet trainers, T-50 Golden Eagle light combat aircraft, and Changbo-Go class submarine.