|President Moon Jae-in poses with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during the latter's visit to Cheong Wa Dae, Thursday. Joint press corps|
By Kang Seung-woo
Defense Minister Suh Wook and his Indonesian counterpart Prabowo Subianto agreed, Thursday, to further discuss details regarding joint work on Korea's homegrown KF-X aircraft and other defense cooperation projects, according to Seoul's defense ministry, amid growing questions over Jakarta's commitment to the joint development program.
Indonesia is a partner of the 8.8 trillion won ($7.7 billion) KF-X that seeks to produce 120 advanced multi-role fighter jets. Jakarta promised to fund 20 percent of the total development cost, or 1.7 trillion won, in exchange for 50 planes that will be manufactured there for the Indonesian Air Force, as well as technology transfers.
"Given that the KF-X/IF-X joint development project symbolizes the solid mutual trust between Korea and Indonesia, the two countries concurred on the need to reciprocally cooperate in the defense sector," the ministry said in a press statement. In Indonesia the project is known as the IF-X.
Prabowo arrived here Wednesday on a three-day trip that will include attending an upcoming rollout ceremony showcasing a KF-X prototype.
The Indonesian minister's visit to Korea carries extra significance as it can be seen as the Southeast Asian country's possible recommitment to the aircraft project.
Since the minister took office in October 2019, he has been allegedly critical of the KF-X, with his country paying only 227.2 billion won as of this month out of the 831.6 billion won it promised, citing financial problems.
|Defense Minister Suh Wook, right, and his Indonesian counterpart Prabowo Subianto pose prior to their talks at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap|
While Indonesia has been falling behind on its payments, there have been news reports that the country is interested in acquiring multiple warplanes, including the Boeing F-15 EX and Dassault Rafale, raising speculation it is trying to pull out of the project and is more interested in acquiring aircraft that can be put into operation immediately, although the Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) explained that the envisioned aircraft purchases have nothing to do with the KF-X program.
Later in the day, Prabowo also paid a visit to President Moon Jae-in at Cheong Wa Dae.
"I believe Minister Prabowo's visit for the KF-X rollout ceremony means Indonesia's strong commitment to a successful defense cooperation between the two countries," Moon said.
In response, Prabowo promised to strongly commit to boosting bilateral defense cooperation, while making efforts to overcome difficulties and challenges ahead of the KF-X program and other defense cooperation projects.
According to Cheong Wa Dae, the Indonesian minister also told DAPA chief Kang Eun-ho that his attendance at the rollout ceremony would be a "good message" for the KF-X program, before his visit to the presidential office.
Along with the KF-X program, it remains to be seen if the Prabowo trip will help normalize the two countries' other deadlocked defense cooperative projects. Indonesia signed a deal with Korea in 2019 to purchase three submarines, but this has also seen little progress since then.