Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Signs of strain? China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign

Signs of strain? China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign

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.

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

Air New Zealand Flight 289 from Auckland to Shanghai was about four-and-a-half or five hours into its journey Sunday when a "technicality" was discovered that meant the plane was not registered in China, the airline said.

Air New Zealand apologized for the inconvenience experienced by its customers and was "deeply disappointed and frustrated by the situation", reported AP.

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.

Scheduling clashes happen - we all have to postpone sometimes.

"Yesterday Air New Zealand was advised that the original application to have this aircraft registered to operate to China had expired and a fresh application was submitted".

Dismissing such conjectures as "irresponsible", Ardern accused the opposition of spreading "misinformation".

This was a plane flying in the middle of the night, on weekend, to a country which only a few years ago blocked all meat imports from New Zealand for more than a week because the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had been rebranded the Ministry for Primary Industries, meaning export paperwork changed slightly.

"In the past, New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front".

Ms Ardern said she had a standing invitation to visit China, but so far the two leaders had not been able to find a suitable date. "But they (China) remain an incredibly important economic and people-to-people partner", she stressed, citing the ongoing exhibition of China's famed Terracotta Warriors at the National Museum of New Zealand as a sign of strong ties.

Exactly how much the difficulties in the relationship with China can be blamed on the Government is hard to know.

"I see absolutely no need, given that Air New Zealand have said themselves that they know exactly what the issue was - that they did not meet requirements on behalf of China", she said.

MBIE officials are working with China to try to reschedule the official opening.

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