MANILA, Philippines – A national daily in South Korea, The Chosunilbo, reported that China asked the South Korean government not to sell FA-50 fighter jets to the Philippines. The request was made before Philippine President Benigno Aquino III made a state visit to South Korea last October 17, according to the newspaper which cited Yomuiri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper report on Oct. 18.
However, South Korea reportedly declined China’s request stating it ‘cannot accept ‘interference’ in arms export, which Seoul considers an issue of national interest.’
When President Aquino visited Seoul, the two governments had signified keen interest in finalizing the plan of Philippines’ purchase of 12 FA-50 fighter jets in its attempt to bolster air defense amid threats from China in its ongoing territorial dispute in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The FA-50 fighter jet is manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and according to Defense News website, the FA-50 ‘is armed with air-to-air, air-to-surface missiles and machine guns, as well as precision-guided bombs, such as joint direct-attack munitions and sensor-fused weapons. Fitted with Israel Elta System’s EL/M-2032 PULSE Doppler radar with a range of 100 kilometers, the jet is suitable for close-air support missions.’
The deal which will cost the Philippine government around P18.9 Billion and described by Aquino and South Korean President Park Geun-hye as a government-to-government procurement, will be expedited in its purchase and delivery process as agreed by both leaders.
The Yomuiri Shimbun’s report was denied by South Korean government, although some officials admit to it in private.
“The Philippines is engaged in a territorial dispute with China over the Spratly Islands, and that appears to be why Beijing protested several times through the Chinese Embassy and other channels,” one South Korean official reportedly said, according to The Chosunilbo.
It also wrote that according to its source,”Every time the Korean or Filipino media reported on the FA-50 sale, China reacted sensitively trying to confirm the reports through diplomatic channels,”
But the newspaper also confirmed that despite the request, the deal would push through.
Aquino, when sought for comment regarding the latest development told reporters in an interview, “I have no information on that matter,” the President said.