South Korea and Indonesia are “nearing an agreement” to resume the latter’s participation in Seoul’s KF-X fighter jet project.
"After five rounds of negotiations, we are nearing an agreement to a certain extent,” a South Korean arms procurement agency official told journalists in Seoul today, Yonhap News reported.
The decision to discuss Indonesia’s continued participation was taken after defense minister, Prabowo Subianto attended the KF-X jet's prototype unveiling ceremony near Seoul last week and held talks with his South Korean counterpart.
A clear positive sign that Jakarta is serious about getting back on board the KF-X project is that Indonesian engineers who returned home in March last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, will come back soon as the two countries have agreed to go ahead with the joint program.
Our plan is to have them (Indonesian engineers) back here by the second half of the year to normalize the business," the official told journalists.
"When the (Indonesian) minister visited, we agreed to promptly push ahead with the negotiations at the working-level," the arms procurement agency official said.
The official denied Indonesia demanded a cut in its contribution during Prabowo's visit though he indicated that Jakarta sought a change in payment schedule. In addition, the Indonesian defence minister asked for South Korea's support “for a food estate program that he leads.”
"To an extent our budget allows, we will have to negotiate their payment schedule. Those issues are all on the table for discussions, and our government's stance is to push ahead to promptly come up with a deal," the official told Yonhap.
"The size, as well as whether the support will be provided in the form of a loan or a G2G, B2B partnership will all have to be decided through consultations," the official said.
Indonesia is a partner for the 8.8 trillion won (US$7.9 billion) project, but Jakarta's commitment for the joint program came into question after it stopped making milestone payments following the first tranche. In addition, it withdrew its engineers from Korea Aerospace facility last year citing COVID-19 problems.