The United Arab Emirates has reportedly shown interest in cooperating with South Korea on its KAI KF-21 Boramae fighter jet development program, potentially becoming the third member of that project.

The Financial News, a South Korean daily, claimed in a report on Thursday that South Korea’s Office of National Security received a letter from the UAE’s Tawazun Economic Council outlining Abu Dhabi’s interest in direct cooperation on the KF-21’s development.

Interestingly, the report claimed the letter even suggested Abu Dhabi could replace Indonesia’s investment in the program.

Indonesia has a 20 percent stake but has failed to fulfill its financial commitments. Jakarta, which has had plans to acquire as many as 50 KF-21s, joined the program in 2010 but later began falling behind on payments in 2017, reaching an estimated $557 million in unpaid dues by July 2022. In May, Jakarta tried to ease concerns in Seoul by promising a new payment timetable.

The Financial News report estimates Indonesia’s unpaid contributions currently amount to around 990 billion South Korean won, roughly $745 million.

The UAE’s reported interest hardly comes as a surprise. After all, in January, Abu Dhabi pledged to invest $30 billion in South Korean industries, including defense. In January 2022, the wealthy Arab country signed a $3.5 billion contract for South Korea’s Cheongung II KM-SAM air defense missile system, the largest-ever arms export deal for Seoul at the time.

As these multi-billion-dollar investments in South Korean industries aptly demonstrate, the UAE would hardly have any serious difficulty ponying up what Indonesia owes the Boramae program. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi would undoubtedly be interested in co-producing the fighter since it would help further develop its domestic defense industry through substantive technology transfers, which Seoul has repeatedly proven generous with providing its clients.

The UAE suspended talks over a landmark deal for 50 fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth jets from the United States in late 2021 over disagreements on American preconditions and Emirati cooperation with China.