China defers New Zealand tourism event amid concerns of a diplomatic rift

China defers New Zealand tourism event amid concerns of a diplomatic rift

The flight in question, flight NZ289, was refused landing permission on Saturday and turned back four-and-a-half hours into the flight.

But while former Prime Minister John Key made it virtually a policy to visit China annually, with ministerial visits averaging close to one a month, face to face contact with the current Government has become nearly rare. The airline and Beijing's foreign ministry have played down the incident.

Relations between China and New Zealand have been strained in recent months after New Zealand's spy agency in November halted mobile company Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G upgrade.

"As is required, the application includes a list of destinations the airline operates to, including Taipei", Air New Zealand said, without elaborating. China could, for example, force American Airlines, Delta, or other airlines that may not refer to "Taiwan" but do not explicitly refer to Taiwan as a part of China, to begin doing so.

John Nicholson, CEO of Aviation New Zealand, told The Guardian that the incident was "very unusual".

"Aviation is a highly regulated market, and China is a highly regulated market and everyone has to do everything by the letter of the law", he said.

"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.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges suggested the returned flight was indicative of increasingly tense relations between China and New Zealand.

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"It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when they can coordinate the schedule.it's an issue for them, we're just keen to get on with things and no doubt it will happen in the near future", Davis said.

Ardern and the Government have come under considerable pressure on what appears to be a deteriorating relationship with China.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern responded saying "it was wrong" to view the incident as politically motivated.

She said five ministers might well be intending to visit in the future, given six had visited a year ago, then she was prompted by Foreign Minister Winston Peters to elaborate on what he called "New Zealand's hitherto foreign policy consensus".

"There is no question, speaking more broadly of our relationship, that our relationship with China is a complex relationship - it sometimes will have it's challenges - but they remain an incredibly important economic and people to people partner".

Last April, China's Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) ordered several global airlines to change how Taiwan was described on their websites.

"It's not helping", the government minister Andrew Little who oversees intelligence services, told reporters.

That followed a defence policy statement in July, in which New Zealand 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. Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, similarly claimed that the flight made a decision to turn back on its own accord because it failed to secure a landing permit ahead of time though, in her comments, Hua stated that she was citing news reports she had read.

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