Yes. Cut hole in the wings. It's the way it is done nowadays with all-composite airframe skins. Perhaps you were more happy with the term "panel removed and re-riveted"? Some airframes will leave...
It was a supplier quality escape, period. Happens to all major manufacturers.
Those lines are unserviceable. They are inside the tanks, as the article states.
No contractor is interested in making a legacy platform work. It doesn't yield $$. LM would rather kill the F-16 line rather than offer it as trainer. F-15, F-18 are way too expensive.
This is not COMACs second project, it's actually the third. They had a 4 engine, 707-like project in the early 80s, which did not go to far... The Shanghai Y-10.
Welcome to the era of the $150M fighter aircraft. It is what it is, and the prices are here to stay. Stop wetdreaming of $60M 5th gen fighters.
It is just not going to happen.