Long-haul New Zealand-China flight forced back mid-flight

The flight was turned back around because of a permit issue one passenger reported

Reaction to news that an Air New Zealand plane carrying 270 people was turned around part way to Shanghai reveals much about the current state of New Zealand-China relations.

But the passengers were kept on board for half an hour after arriving, while the elderly woman was removed by Ministry of Health and Air New Zealand staff, according to a passenger who was on the same flight.

"As you were advised onboard, the aircraft operating your flight did not have regulatory approval to land in China and was required to return to Auckland", the message from the airline said.

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.

The unorthodox incident has prompted speculation the issue with the plane's paperwork was due to an error in the airline referring to the city of Taipei as the capital of Taiwan rather than a city 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.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Air New Zealand for comment.

Ties with China have been tense under Ardern's government which has openly raised concerns about Beijing's growing influence in the South Pacific, and rejected Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's first local bid to build a 5G mobile network.

And under Ardern, New Zealand has embraced a warmer relationship with Japan.

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"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.

National leader Simon Bridges has accused Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters of failing to fix the "steadily deteriorating relationship" between the two countries.

"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. "Look, there are no questions speaking more broadly... that our relationship with China is a complex relationship".

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern responded saying "it was wrong" to view the incident as politically motivated. That's in New Zealand's best interest. "Them [the opposition National party] spreading misinformation around this flight I see as irresponsible and a real departure on what we've experienced on foreign policy before", Ardern told TVNZ.

Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold. Both countries claim sovereignty over the other.

"We've not received any communication of this nature", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said at the time.

A major joint tourism event to be unveiled in Wellington between the two countries has also been postponed, with reports that China refused to send any government ministers to attend.

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

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