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S. Korea, Indonesia to soon resume fighter jet negotiations: official

This photo taken April 9, 2021, shows South Korea's first prototype of the next-generation KF-X fighter, officially dubbed KF-21 Boramae, being revealed at the Korea Aerospace Industries Co. facility in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, southeastern South Korea. (Yonhap)
This photo taken April 9, 2021, shows South Korea's first prototype of the next-generation KF-X fighter, officially dubbed KF-21 Boramae, being revealed at the Korea Aerospace Industries Co. facility in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, southeastern South Korea. (Yonhap)
South Korea and Indonesia will soon resume talks about their joint fighter jet development project, an official said, after Indonesia's defense minister attended the jet's prototype unveiling ceremony in a show of commitment to the project.

Indonesia is a partner for the 8.8 trillion won ($7.9 billion) project, called IF-X in the country, but doubts have grown over Jakarta's commitment to the joint program after the Southeast Asian country stopped making payments for the 20 percent of the total development cost it had promised to shoulder.

Last week, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto visited South Korea to attend the unveiling ceremony of a prototype of the fighter jet. His attendance was seen as meaning that Jakarta remains committed to the project.

"When the minister visited, we have agreed to promptly push ahead with the negotiations at the working-level," an arms procurement agency official said.

The two countries launched negotiations on the fighter jet project in 2018 after Indonesian President Joko Widodo sought to adjust his country's burden, citing financial difficulties. They last held negotiations in September 2020.

"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 reporters on condition of anonymity.

The official denied Indonesia demanded a cut in its contribution during Prabowo's visit, but the Indonesian minister asked for South Korea's support for a food estate program that he leads.

"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.

Indonesian engineers who had been participating in the development here returned home in March last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Seoul official said they will come back soon as the two countries have agreed to go ahead with the joint program.

"Our plan is to have them back here by the second half of the year to normalize the business," he said. "After five rounds of negotiations, we are nearing an agreement to a certain extent." (Yonhap)

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