South Korean-Indonesian Leaders’ Meet Falls Short on Breaking KF-X Jet Deadlock

  • Our Bureau
  • 07:09 PM, April 8, 2021
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South Korean-Indonesian Leaders’ Meet Falls Short on Breaking KF-X Jet Deadlock
KF-X fighter jet illustration

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.”

South Korean-Indonesian Leaders’ Meet Falls Short on Breaking KF-X Jet Deadlock
Talking Rafale: Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto with his French counterpart

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 In addition, Jakarta has not sent back Indonesian personnel working in Korea Aerospace Industries factory that were withdrawn when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.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. 

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