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Air NZ flight turned back from China

12 February 2019

DPA said that China refused to allow the aircraft land because there is no permission from the Chinese authorities.

When asked to comment on the matter during a press conference on Monday, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the plane was "improperly temporarily deployed, failed to obtain destination permission, and took the independent decision to return while in flight".

China refuses to have diplomatic ties with governments that recognise Taiwan and has been cracking down on airlines that do so.

"Tourism is very important to New Zealand, but so is trade and our worldwide relationship - I think that it's very concerning that Jacinda Ardern is the first elected Prime Minister not to visit China within the first year in office since before Robert Muldoon, that in itself speaks volumes".

China's approach to Taiwan is well known, as is its strict approach to paperwork. The source told the news site that the Chinese were "very explicit" about what they wanted the wording to be, but it apparently had yet to be addressed by the time the plane was in the air.

"Air New Zealand has been very open about the fact that there is a requirement from China's end for planes going into China to be registered".

The unorthodox incident has prompted speculation the issue with the plane's paperwork was due to an error in the airline referring to the city of Taipei as the capital of Taiwan rather than a city in China.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asserted that an incident involving a Shanghai-bound Air New Zealand flight turning back to Auckland last Saturday was an "administrative issue" and would have no impact on diplomatic ties with China.

Ardern cancelled her first planned state visit in November 2018 because both parties were too busy.

Relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained in recent months, following a recommendation from New Zealand's spy agency that the roll-out of 5G by Huawei posed "significant national security risks".

Last year, New Zealand issued a defence policy statement in which it said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

Subsequently New Zealand telco company Spark said it would not use the company as part of the 5G roll-out, although justice minister Andrew Little has stopped short of calling it a ban. The flight returned to Auckland.

Air NZ flight turned back from China