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Signs of strain? China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign

Signs of strain? China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign

A passenger plane flying from Auckland to Shanghai was forced to turn back after some five hours in the air because it did not have permission to land, officials said on Sunday.

"A permitting issue, supposedly", one passenger, Eric Hundman, told the New Zealand Herald.

In a statement Air New Zealand said the plane was new to the company's fleet, and did not have the correct paperwork allowing it to land in China. According to sources "the Chinese were very explicit" about what the issue was, however the issue was not resolved.

Flight NZ289 carrying about 270 passengers left Auckland shortly before midnight on Saturday only to return about 10 am on Sunday (2100 GMT Saturday).

The airline said on Monday that China denied the plane landing permission due to an administrative error.

"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".

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"It would be wrong to confuse administrative and regulatory issues [as] a signal on our relationship with China", Ardern said late Monday in an interview with New Zealand's state-owned television network TVNZ's 1 News channel, a day after the incident.

"It gets into the political situation and the way the different governments recognise or don't recognise states, and I would think Air New Zealand would be guided very much by what the New Zealand government position is ... therefore look at it in context of the New Zealand government's relationship with China".

Ardern also dismissed claims that the Huawei ban had any impact on the diplomatic ties, and insisted that New Zealand was not pushed into the decision by other countries.

While New Zealand was right to hold its line on an independent foreign policy, that did not mean ministers should not be careful in their remarks, he said.

"Air NZ wishes to sincerely apologise for the return and subsequent retiming of your flight, NZ289".

The incident marks yet another arbitrary move by Beijing to impose its ideology upon foreign companies, following the CAA order on April 24 of previous year that forced airlines to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, which the U.S. White House called "Orwellian nonsense". "Them (the opposition) spreading misinformation around issues like this flight, I have decided I see it as irresponsible and a real departure from what we have experienced on foreign policy before", she said.