Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai forced to turn back
12 February, 2019, 13:38 | Author: Sheila Harris
Ardern had received an invitation to visit the communist country to meet Premier Li Keqiang a year ago, however the invitation was put on ice after New Zealand's chief spy agency, the GCSB, chose to nix plans to allow Huawei to build the country's 5G network, according to Otago Daily Times.
"Air NZ wishes to sincerely apologise for the return and subsequent retiming of your flight, NZ289. Is it part of the ongoing deterioration in relations between this New Zealand government and China?" opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges wrote on social network Twitter on Sunday.
Ardern's remarks followed questions by some politicians and analysts whether the incident pointed to broader issues in New Zealand's ties to its key trading partner. The airline said all customers had since arrived in Shanghai.
Visitors view terracotta warriors during the preview of the exhibition "Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality" at the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, New Zealand, on December 13, 2018.
Air New Zealand said in a statement that Flight NZ289 from Auckland to Shanghai was over four hours into its journey Sunday when it returned to Auckland after it was discovered a "technicality" meant the plane wasn't registered in China.
An Air New Zealand flight was reportedly denied permission to land in China because the airline's paperwork referenced Taiwan as an independent country.
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The exhibition - featuring eight warriors standing 180 cm tall, and two full-size horses from the terracotta army, as well as two half-size replica bronze horse-drawn chariots - opened to the public on December 15 in the run-up to the beginning of 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.
For weeks there have been rumours that officials at the Chinese Embassy have warned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that the trip is not happening until other issues are resolved, something Mfat denies.
"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".
On the one hand, China faces bigger problems, in its ongoing trade war with the United States, meaning it can not afford to get into unnecessary fights elsewhere.
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".
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