Govt investigates North Korea's NZ-made plane

(Steven Joyce / Twitter)
(Steven Joyce / Twitter)

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is investigating how a plane produced by Hamilton company Pacific Aerospace ended up in the hands of North Korea.

The P-750 XSTOL was seen flying at the inaugural Wonsan International Friendship Air Festival last week, among fighter jets and helicopters. Its tail was emblazoned with the isolated communist nation's flag.

In a statement, MFAT says it's working with Pacific Aerospace to find out how the plane ended up there, and it's also evaluating if it breaches any international trade sanctions.

"In terms of exports to North Korea, New Zealand has sanctions in place prohibiting the export of specified goods. We take our international law obligations seriously," a spokesperson says.

"We understand that no aircraft have been exported to North Korea from New Zealand."

The plane was sold to Chinese company Free Sky earlier this year, and is part of a blossoming aviation relationship between New Zealand and China.

John Key signed off on a $75 million joint venture between Pacific Aerospace and Beijing Automotive when he visited in March 2014, which allowed the Kiwi-made plane to be sold into China and to private clients.

Mr Key's office was asked if the deal he signed had led to the plane falling into North Korean hands, but it referred the matter to MFAT.

"I understand MFAT is looking into it so you will need to contact them," a spokeswoman told Newshub.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has visited the Hamilton plane factory a handful of times, including the production line for its Chinese customers.

Just two months after Mr Key signed the deal with China, Mr Joyce tweeted about one of his visits: "Final visit of day 2 Pacific Aerospace at Ham airport. This is 1st of a number of planes they r selling into China."

Newshub was at the signing of the aviation deal in China, where Mr Key trumpeted the huge potential for aviation exports in the Asian superpower, saying: "We sell a lot of lamb here, now I look forward to selling lots of planes."

The joint venture will eventually see the aircraft assembled in China, but that won't happen for a number of years.