Seoul, Jakarta hash out fighter jet disagreement
Korea and Indonesia will start renegotiating their joint investment in the next-generation fighter KF-21, also known as the Boramae, Wednesday and Thursday in Jakarta.
Aimed at replacing the Korean Air Force's dated McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Northrop F-5 fighter jets, the KF-21 Boramae is a 4.5-generation aircraft, on par with the latest F-16 but less stealthy than the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II developed by Lockheed Martin. It will be the first domestically developed fighter jet.
Expectations were high that a settlement would be reached this week after the Indonesian government sent 30 engineers to Korea in August, a sign of the Southeast Asian country's renewed attention to the project. Jakarta recalled them at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kang Eun-ho, head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the state arms procurement agency, arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday night with six negotiators.
The negotiations will run from Wednesday to Thursday afternoon, and continue overnight into Friday if necessary.
Indonesia is said to be asking to reduce its share in the joint investment and development of the KF-21 by 5 percent and for more technology transfers than stipulated in the original agreement.
The development of the KF-21 has been called the most expensive military project in Korean history, with a price tag of approximately 8.5 trillion won ($7.8 billion) for development alone. Approximately 1.6 trillion won, or 20 percent, is to be paid by Indonesia.
Indonesia plans to locally produce 48 KF-21 jets after receiving one prototype and technical data.
However, Indonesia has delayed payment of its share since the second half of 2017.
During a state visit to Korea in September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo asked President Moon Jae-in for a 5 percent reduction in Indonesia's share from 20 percent to 15 percent.
Indonesia's overdue contribution currently amounts to 800 billion won.
Through renegotiations since October 2018, the two countries narrowed their differences over Indonesia's current 20 percent contribution ratio, agreeing to payment in some other form.
However, Indonesia's position hardened in October 2019 with the appointment of Prabowo Subianto as the country's defense minister, and joint development was essentially suspended after 110 Indonesian engineers working on the project were recalled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kang led a delegation to Jakarta in Sept. 2020, when he was deputy chief of the DAPA. However, he failed to renegotiate the terms of joint development of the KF-21 despite a meeting with Prabowo.
Indonesia signaled a change of heart this past year and sent a defense delegation, which included Prabowo, to attend the April 9 of the new fighter jet’s prototype in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang.
Indonesia also sent 30 technical staff participating in the jet's development to South Korea at the end of August, and plans to send more technical staff if negotiations are successful.
However, even if a settlement is reached, the Indonesian government is currently focusing its budget on dealing with the Covid-19 crisis in the country. One possibility is that it starts paying its contributions in installments without immediately paying its arrears.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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