Ardern, from New Zealand, says the return flight from China is not a red flag for ties


WELLINGTON (Reuters) – An Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai was turned down because of an "administrative issue" and the incident has no political implications for ties to China, said Jacinda Ardern on Monday .

FILE PHOTO – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reacts during a joint press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Belgium, on January 25, 2019. REUTERS / Yves Herman

The 270-passenger flight sailed from Auckland just before midnight on Saturday, but took a few turns and landed in New Zealand on Sunday morning, the national airline, which was partially controlled by the government, said.

"I think it's important to be very clear and not confuse administrative and regulatory issues as relationship issues," Ardern told a weekly news conference.

"This was a very administrative issue," he added. "There is an expectation that incoming aircraft will be registered, that the flight in question has not met the administrative requirements."

China's Foreign Ministry has yet to comment.

Ardern's comments came after some politicians and analysts questioned whether the incident pointed to broader issues in New Zealand's ties with its main trading partner.

"We need to know what happened here. Is it part of the continuing deterioration in relations between this New Zealand government and China? "Said Simon Bridges, leader of the national opposition, on Twitter on Sunday.

In November, New Zealand's intelligence agency rejected the first request by the telecommunications industry to use the equipment of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in its planned 5G mobile network, citing concerns over national security.

Then a defense policy statement in July in which New Zealand said that China's growing influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability and allay tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking a complaint from China.

"There is a high degree of sensitivity around the relationship now," said David Capie, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington.

"In a series of issues with China, this government has signaled that it is adopting a different stance from its predecessor, so I think people are waiting to see if and how Beijing responds."

The rescheduled flight landed in Shanghai on Monday, according to data from FlightAware's flight tracking website.

Report of Charlotte Greenfield; Edition of Praveen Menon and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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