Daily Archives: February 1, 2016

Greek Australians honoured on Australia Day


Seven Greek Australians received an Order of Australia Award this week.

Among the hundreds of people awarded an Order of Australia this Australia Day in recognition of their outstanding service both locally and abroad, at least seven were of Greek background.

With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull having scrapped knights and dames from the Order of Australia last year, those awarded fell under just four categories.

Professor Minas Theodore Coroneo from Vaucluse, New South Wales received the Australian Order (AO) in the General Division, for his distinguished service to ophthalmology (study of the eye), along with his contribution to the research and development of innovative surgical technologies and devices, and to maintaining eye health in regional and Indigenous communities.

During an interview with SBS, the professor expressed his gratitude for the honour, and said he only wishes that his parents were still alive to witness his achievements, which he attributes to their hard work and determination to educate their children.

Also a recipient of an AO was George Pappas from Hawthorn, Victoria. Mr Pappas was awarded for his distinguished service to the community through roles with tertiary education, medical research and defence organisations, in addition to his ongoing contribution in business, namely management consulting.

Awarded under the third category as a Member of the Order (AM) was Queensland’s Dr Vlasis Pitsonis Efstathis, who was recognised for his service in the community health sector, through leadership roles with a range of organisations, and to medicine as a practitioner.

Mr John Vrodos from the Northern Territory’s Stuart Park also received an AM for his significant service to the Northern Territory’s Greek community, through a range of executive roles relating to sporting and cultural organisations.

Finally, four Greek Australians were awarded a Medal of the Order (OAM), including Stathis E Efstathis of Raby Bay, QLD for service to the Greek community of Queensland; Gerald Nicholas Kostos from Toorak, VIC for his service to the community through a range of sporting organisations; and the late Spiro John Notaras from Grafton, NSW for his service to the community of Grafton.

Though women made up one-third of the Australia Day honours, where the Greek Australian recipients were concerned, 2016 proved to be a boy’s club, with not one Greek Australian female awarded.

*Please note, there may have been other prize winners of Greek origin who were not identifiable due to name changes.

source:Neos Kosmos

Aυστραλός ναυαγοσώστης στη Λέσβο


Η ομάδα του έσωσε πάνω από 500 πρόσφυγες από πνιγμό.

Ο Αυστραλός ναυαγοσώστης, Simon Lewis, ζήτησε να πάει στη Λέσβο εθελοντικά, προκειμένου να βοηθήσει πρόσφυγες οι οποίοι από την Τουρκία επιχειρούν, μέσω του Αιγαίου Πελάγους, να φθάσουν στη Λέσβο.

Η πρώτη του δήλωση στα ΜΜΕ είναι ότι «ποτέ δεν πρόκειται να ξεχάσει την τρομακτική αυτή εμπειρία».

Τα 10 χιλιόμετρα που διασχίζουν οι πρόσφυγες από την Τουρκία στη Λέσβο είναι πολύ επικίνδυνα, είναι εντούτοις ο μόνος τρόπος για να περάσουν χιλιάδες Σύροι πρόσφυγες που ζητούν καταφύγιο στην Ευρώπη.

Ο Simon Lewis, ο οποίος είναι επικεφαλής του ναυαγοσωστικού κλαμπ St. Kilda, πήγε στην Ελλάδα ως μέλος μιας ομάδας διάσωσης των προσφύγων, μέσω κοινής επιχείρησης του Οργανισμού Ελλήνων Ναυαγοσωστών και του Διεθνούς Συνδέσμου Ναυαγοσωστών.

Ο ίδιος δήλωσε ότι μόνο η δική του ομάδα βοήθησε να σωθούν 517 άτομα μέσα σε δέκα μέρες, τονίζοντας ότι η ευγνωμοσύνη εκείνων που έσωσαν ήταν κάτι απερίγραπτο.

Από την άλλη πλευρά, προσθέτει, ότι ήταν φοβερό να βλέπει κανείς ανθρώπους να πνίγονται και να μη μπορεί να τους βοηθήσει γιατί βρίσκονταν σε τουρκικά ύδατα, όπου δεν είχαν πρόσβαση για να τους προσφέρουν βοήθεια. Ο αριθμός εκείνων που πνίγηκαν μέσα σε δέκα μέρες που βρίσκονταν ο ίδιος εκεί ήταν 31 άτομα, είπε.

Αναφερόμενος στον τρόπο και τα μέσα που χρησιμοποιούν οι πρόσφυγες για να φθάσουν στη στεριά, θα πει ότι είναι ‘απίστευτος’.

«Οι βάρκες-φουσκωτά έχουν κατασκευαστεί από τα πιο φτηνά και ψεύτικα υλικά, με ψεύτικα σωσίβια και άχρηστες κινεζικές μηχανές. Αυτοί οι άνθρωποι ρισκάρουν τη ζωή τους, προσπαθώντας να δραπετεύσουν από μια εφιαλτική κατάσταση, να βρουν την ελευθερία τους και είναι ο μόνος τρόπος που τους προσφέρεται».

Το διάστημα που ήταν εκεί, είπε, έφτασαν πάνω από 2.000 πρόσφυγες.

Με την ευκαιρία των εορτασμών της Ημέρας της Αυστραλίας, ο δικηγόρος και ακτιβιστής των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων, Julian Burnside, δήλωσε ότι η εμπειρία του Simon Lewis εμπνέει και εκφράζει πλήρως το τι σημαίνει να είσαι Αυστραλός.

«Ωστόσο, η στάση της Αυστραλίας όσον αφορά τους πρόσφυγες, τα τελευταία χρόνια, είναι επαίσχυντη», τόνισε, προσθέτοντας ότι «ένας τρόπος που μπορούν οι Αυστραλοί να βοηθήσουν στο να σωθούν ζωές είναι να υιοθετήσουν μία πιο ανθρωπιστική προσέγγιση στο θέμα των προσφύγων γενικά».

Το να σώζεις ζωές, όπως έκανε ο Simon Lewis, είπε, εμπλουτίζει τη δική σου ζωή.

Πηγή:Νέος Κόσμος

Vale Brigadier Rossi


Victorian war veteran and RSL legend passes away

A tireless advocate for marking the duty and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women, Brigadier Keith Rossi died on 20 January in Melbourne at the age of 94.
His death is mourned not only by veterans and their families, and the RSL of which he was a member for more than 70 years, but by Australia’s Greek community who have lost a true friend and supporter.

Despite the fact that he did not serve in Greece during WWII, Brigadier Rossi was a regular attendee on behalf of the RSL at commemorative events marking the WWII Greece and Crete campaigns. He played an important role in the creation of the Australian Hellenic Memorial in Melbourne’s Domain Gardens as a member of the Memorial’s committee from 1995.

Keith Rossi enrolled as a cadet in the militia in 1937 at the age of 15. His service record showing his date of birth as 13 October 1919 is incorrect; he was told to say he was 17 by the recruiting officer. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in March 1941, where he first served as a wireless operator. His operational service began in Egypt six months later where he undertook artillery training before joining the 2/2 Australian Field Regiment.

Postings to Ceylon (1942) and New Guinea (1943/1944) followed, before he saw out WWII in Morotai and Borneo. After the war he remained a professional soldier and in 1970 served in Vietnam.

A member of the Citizen Military Forces until 1976, following his Army career Brigadier Rossi devoted his life to the RSL which he had joined in 1943, and became a volunteer historian working five days a week at ANZAC House in Melbourne. Direct and insightful, there his assistance to those seeking his deep knowledge and robust advice became legend.

Joining the many tributes to the brigadier, Steve Kyritsis OAM, president of the Hellenic RSL sub branch Victoria, said: “Keith was a Philhellene and supporter of the Hellenic RSL. His knowledge as a historian was always helpful to matters relating to Australian and its Allies’ military history.
“We have lost a great soldier, veteran, and historian who devoted his whole life for the RSL.”

Brigadier Rossi was given an honorary life membership of the Pancretan Association of Melbourne in 2012, which described him as “a stern supporter of the Greek community and the Cretan fraternity”.
Victoria RSL state president, Major General David McLachlan, said his former colleague would be greatly missed.

“Keith received an OBE (Military) in 1964 and was recognised with an AM in 1999 for his service to veterans and their families. He held a wealth of military history knowledge and, with a sharp mind, was a significant contributor to ANZAC House.”
Brigadier Rossi was predeceased by his wife Nan and two sons.

RIP Keith Vincent Rossi. AM. OBE. RFD ED (Ret’d). Born: 13 October 1921. Died: 20 January 2016

source:Neos Kosmos

Over 10,000 migrant children missing — Europol


The Hague — Over 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared in Europe, the EU police agency Europol said on Sunday, fearing many have been whisked into sex trafficking rings or the slave trade.

Europol’s press office confirmed to AFP the figures published in British newspaper The Observer, adding that they covered the last 18-24 months.

The agency’s chief of staff Brian Donald said the vulnerable children had disappeared from the system after registering with state authorities following their arrival in Europe.

“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children,” Donald said, adding that 5,000 had disappeared in Italy alone.

“Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with.”

Donald said there was evidence of a “criminal infrastructure” established over the last 18 months to exploit the migrant flow.

The Observer reported that Europol found evidence of links between smuggling rings bringing people into the EU and human trafficking gangs exploiting migrants for sex and slavery.

“There are prisons in Germany and Hungary where the vast majority of people arrested and placed there are in relation to criminal activity surrounding the migrant crisis,” Donald said.

Over one million migrants and refugees, many fleeing the Syria conflict, crossed into Europe last year.

“Whether they are registered or not, we’re talking about 270,000 children,” Donald told the paper.

“Not all of those are unaccompanied, but we also have evidence that a large proportion might be,” he said, adding that the 10,000 is likely to be a conservative estimate.

He said many of the children are “visible”, and not “spirited away and held in the middle of forests”.

‘Most vulnerable group’

Raffaela Milano, Save the Children’s Italy-Europe programme director, said that “unaccompanied minors who travel without adults are the most vulnerable group of the migratory flow”.

“Many minors, in fact, make themselves ‘invisible’ to the authorities to enable them to continue their journey in Europe, for fear of being sent back,” she said.

Many children arrive first on the Greek islands before making the journey to relatives across Europe.

Laura Pappa, president of the Greek charity Meta-Action, a group accompanying children who travel without relatives, said they “face a destiny that is worse than that of the rest of migrants waiting to be relocated”.

She said they often have to wait for around seven months to be reunited with relatives, and that procedures can be slow and complicated.

“There are some people that present themselves as uncles and take the children. It’s not easy in this mess to cross check the identity of the ‘uncle’.”

Pappa said the group has helped 3,000 children reach family, but that it “is not enough”.

Escalating tensions

Britain is one country that has said it will take in migrant or refugee children who have been separated from their parents.

Despite the constant risk of death and deportation, migrants continue to stream into Europe, risking their lives to escape poverty, repression and conflict.

Many children are among the refugees and migrants who have lost their lives making the perilous crossing in the Mediterranean.

In the latest tragedy, the Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies of women and children were washed up on a beach after their boat sank, leaving at least 37 people dead.

Tensions are escalating across the continent over the increasing numbers of migrants, with many right-wing groups calling for more immigration restrictions and tighter borders.

On Saturday, Swedish police said dozens of masked men believed to belong to neo-Nazi gangs gathered in Stockholm and handed out leaflets calling for attacks against young unaccompanied migrants.

And anti-fascist and far-right protesters clashed in a southern German town where unknown assailants threw a hand grenade into a refugee shelter on Friday, as the country scrambles to integrate the over one million asylum seekers it welcomed last year.


Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink describes Manchester City FA Cup draw as ‘a final’

Editorial use only. No merchandising. For Football images FA and Premier League restrictions apply inc. no internet/mobile usage without FAPL license - for details contact Football Dataco Mandatory Credit: Photo by Joe Toth/BPI/REX/Shutterstock (5579341bh) Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink during the Emirates FA Cup 4th round match between MK Dons and Chelsea played at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes on January 31st 2015 The Emirates FA Cup 2015/16 Fourth Round MK Dons v Chelsea MK Dons Stadium, Bletchley, United Kingdom - 31 Jan 2016

Arsenal will face Hull in the FA Cup fifth round, while Manchester United travel to Shrewsbury and Liverpool face Blackburn if they beat West Ham.

Guus Hiddink has described drawing Manchester City in the FA Cup fifth round as “a final” and warned that Chelsea have at last found their winning touch this season.

Chelsea have lifted the FA Cup five times since the turn of the century and are the defending Premier League champions while City won the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League in 2012 and 2014.

• Terry: This will be my final Chelsea season

The two clubs will now meet at Stamford Bridge on the weekend of Feb 19-22 in what is Manchester City’s third successive away draw against Premier League opposition in this season’s FA Cup.

It’s a final,” Hiddink said. “Already a final now. A huge game, so start the final next round.”

There are two other all Premier League ties, with Bournemouth hosting Everton and Tottenham Hotspur having been drawn at home against Crystal Palace.

The defending champions Arsenal have received another favourable draw after their weekend win against Burnley and will play Hull City at the Emirates Stadium in what is a repeat of the 2014 final.

In the other matches, Manchester United face a trip to League One Shrewsbury Town, Reading play West Bromwich Albion or Peterborough, and Blackburn Rovers have been drawn at home against Liverpool or West Ham United.

Chelsea remain unbeaten under Hiddink, winning four and drawing four, culminating in their emphatic 5-1 win against MK Dons on Sunday to progress into the last 16 of the FA Cup. Oscar scored his first Chelsea hat-trick in the match while Eden Hazard also scored his first club goal of the season.

• MK Dons 1 Chelsea 5: Five things we learnt

Chelsea were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City at the start of the season but Hiddink, who won the FA Cup in 2009 and still has a perfect record in the competition, believes that they have now turned a corner. “The players have responded very well to the way we are working,” he said.

“It was important to get some results. There were draws in the beginning, and the standard of this club means we need more than draws, but we have to find some ­security at first. Now we are moving into the area of victories. The players responded.

“There is quality in the team, but also the will to do, also, a very disciplined tactical work as we demand. That’s more in the direction of the defensive, well-organised work they do. Not just the defenders, but also the creative players working hard. That’s benefiting the team.”



Driver ‘deliberately’ runs down and kills 17 kangaroos outside Brisbane


A 100-metre stretch of road at Wacol was littered with dead or dying kangaroos, says RSPCA, which is appealing for witnesses.

The RSPCA says a driver has deliberately run down and killed 17 kangaroos on the outskirts of Brisbane.

The animal welfare group said it was appalled by the incident that left a 100-metre stretch of road at Wacol littered with kangaroo carcasses.

The animals were discovered on Monday morning, between a women’s prison and a nearby men’s one on Grindle Road.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said many of the kangaroos were young.

“One of them we had to euthanase, 16 of them were dead,” he said on Monday. “They’ve definitely been deliberately run over. You can quite clearly see the tyre tracks where they’ve gone off the road to hit them.”

Beatty appealed for any witnesses to come forward.


Greece’s Golden Dawn rallies for Imia crisis anniversary


Athens (AFP) – Two thousand people joined a rally in Athens Saturday organised by the far-right Golden Dawn Party to mark the anniversary of the 1996 Imia crisis that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.

Black-clad party members held torches and waved Greek and party flags, shouting ultra-patriotic slogans, as they marched from the Golden Dawn’s main office in northern Athens to the nearby Ministry of Defence.

In central Athens, meanwhile, counter-demonstrators gathered in defiance of a government ban on gatherings in the centre of the city.

Police put the number of people at the Golden Dawn rally at 2,000 with around 500 counter demonstrators in central Athens.

In January 1996, Greece and Turkey clashed over the sovereignty of a handful of rocky islets, called Kardak by Ankara and Imia by Athens, situated a few miles from the Turkish mainland.

The two countries sent marines to two neighbouring islets in a sign of an imminent armed confrontation, but then withdrew their troops after heavy diplomatic pressure by the United States.

Greek authorities on Friday announced a ban on all public gatherings in central Athens to avert any clashes between far-right activists and anti-fascists counter-demonstrators.

Police concerns were also raised after 12 Germans, thought to be members of a far-right group who arrived in Athens to take part in Saturday?s event, were attacked on Thursday by anti-fascists.


Messi, Suarez edge Barcelona past nine-man Atletico, take control in title race


Barcelona, Spain: Barcelona took control of the La Liga title race as goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez inspired a come from behind 2-1 win against nine-man Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Koke handed the visitors a deserved early lead, but Barca turned the game thanks to two goals in eight minutes before the break through Messi and Suarez.

Victory takes Barca three points clear of Atletico at the top of the table – having also played a game less – and seven points clear of third-placed Real Madrid, who host Espanyol on Sunday.

“It is clear it is an important day for us to pick up three points against our closest rivals, but there is a long way to go,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

“Every game presents its difficulties and you don’t always overcome them in the most effective or spectacular way.”

Meanwhile, Atletico coach Diego Simeone refused to chastise Luis and Godin for leaving his side short-handed against the European champions.

“I have nothing to reproach them for,” said the Argentine.

“Even with nine men we maintained our way of playing. In a game you can win or lose, but I always prefer to lose in this way.”

The clash between La Liga’s top two pitted Europe’s most feared attack against its strongest defence, but it was Atletico who started on the front foot.

Saul Niguez’s dipping effort was brilliantly turned over by Claudio Bravo after just two minutes.

However, another Niguez burst provided the opening goal eight minutes later when his cross from the right just evaded Antoine Griezmann and was slotted home at the far post by Koke.

Atletico could even have had a more commanding lead as Augusto Fernandez flashed a shot inches wide with Barca struggling to get a foothold in the game.

The European champions had been outplayed by Malaga and Athletic Bilbao in the first-half of their previous two games before reacting after the break, but they clicked into gear in the final 15 minutes of the first-half to turn the game on its head.

Suarez fired a warning shot that Jan Oblak got down well to save at his near post.

However, the Slovenian’s 483-minute run without conceding was ended when Jordi Alba showed great composure to pull a low cross into Messi’s path to smash home.

Atletico were then caught uncharacteristically flat-footed as Dani Alves’s long ball over the top picked out Suarez, who showed great strength to hold off compatriot Jose Maria Gimenez, before slotting between Oblak’s legs.

The game looked over as a contest a minute before the break when Luis was sent-off for high, studs-up, challenge on Messi inside the Barcelona half.

Yet, despite their numerical disadvantage, Atletico still started the second period the better.

Yannick Carrasco’s lung-bursting run was snuffed out at the last hurdle by Gerard Pique.

The Belgian then produced a fine cross for Griezmann, but his acrobatic effort from point-blank range was brilliantly saved by Bravo.

Atletico’s resistance was undone by their own stupidity again 25 minutes from time, though, as Godin lunged in on Suarez and was rightly shown a second yellow card.

Barca then rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds by introducing former Atleticomidfielder Arda Turan for Ivan Rakitic and the Turkish international was inches away from his first goal since swapping the Spanish capital for the Camp Nou when his shot flew just wide of the far post.

And a horrible day for Diego Simeone’s men was rounded off when Fernandez had to be stretchered from the field with what looked like a serious knee injury 15 minutes from time.


NSW proposes $100b GST hike to mostly fund tax cuts


NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird will make a final attempt to break the tax reform stalemate with a GST proposal that would give the federal government about $100 billion up front to dramatically cut income taxes while looking after the states’ growing health and education costs over the longer term.

With talks between the federal and state governments on the brink of collapse, and the Turnbull government all but resigned to going it alone on major tax changes, Mr Baird will propose on Monday that the GST rate be increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, with no expansion to the base, a move that would raise about $32.5 billion a year and more.

In the three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the federal government would keep all of the revenue except for $7 billion, which would be given to the states to make up for funding cuts to schools and hospitals in the 2014 federal budget. The federal government would be able to use the revenue windfall on large cuts to corporate and personal income tax and compensate welfare recipients and low-income earners.

For example, NSW suggests that of the $32.5 billion in extra revenue in the first year, the federal government could spend $8 billion in cutting the company tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, $16 billion to reduce all income tax brackets by 7 percentage points and about $8 billion on compensation.

Then, in 2020, the states and the federal government could renegotiate the redistribution of the revenue to fund health and education over the long term, taking into account how much was being generated by the GST, efficiencies in health costs that the states had been able to make and the extra revenue being driven by the economic growth generated by the tax cuts.

A PwC report in November calculated that the economy would be about $100 billion larger by 2025 if corporate tax was cut to 25 per cent.

“This modified proposal can place a secure foundation under our health and education systems, while boosting national productivity and competitiveness and providing extra support for the most vulnerable,” Mr Baird writes in today’s The Australian Financial Review.

“These reforms could adjust both our income tax and corporate tax burdens so they more closely match those of our international competitors.

“And, at 15 per cent, our GST will still remain low by OECD standards.”

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state and territory leaders last met in December, there was no progress towards reaching a consensus on changing the tax system. The federal government insisted any GST increase must be fully spent on tax cuts and compensation and said tax cuts alone would generate growth and revenue.

Mr Baird and South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill said proceeds of a GST increase must be used, at least in part, to fund hospitals and schools, while other premiers remained opposed to any GST increase.

With a final Council of Australian Governments meeting scheduled for late March or early April, before the Turnbull government goes it alone, Mr Baird will call his state and territory counterparts together for a meeting in about a month in a bid to try and take a united position to that final COAG.

Attempt to break deadlock

Late last year, Mr Weatherill tried to break the deadlock by proposing the federal government keep all proceeds from a 15 per cent GST rate while the states in return received a guaranteed 17.5 per cent of the income tax take. Income tax revenue grows faster than the GST. Mr Weatherill and Mr Baird agree that the states need funding stability over the longer term rather than a short-term cash burst.

Last week, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced plans to provide the $4.5 billion in slashed school funding that Mr Baird seeks.

Federal Labor opposes a GST increase and will fund its promises from the proceeds of increases to tobacco taxes, a crackdown on multinational tax minimisers, tax hikes for wealthier superannuants and cutting government spending in a new baby bonus and abolishing its budget-driven direct action climate policy.

On the weekend, Mr Weatherill was unconvinced this was a sustainable way to fund health and education – which earned him a swift rebuke on Sunday from opposition spokesman for finance Tony Burke.

“It’s a comment drowning in ignorance. Completely drowning in ignorance,” Mr Burke told Sky News.

“I accept with that one, the government’s held a gun to his head with the [2014 budget] cuts. So I can understand why he is in a desperate situation in trying to find money. On the characterisation of claiming that we haven’t funded our promises, it is just so demonstrably wrong that it needs to be called out.”

In an interview with the Financial Review, Mr Weatherill criticised a lack of policy leadership by both federal Labor and the Coalition on tax policy.

He said he would “continue to speak honestly about the issues we face until we reach agreement about sustainable solutions and I won’t be deflected”, a reference to growing attacks from federal Labor colleagues.

It’s a revenue, not spending, problem

He argued that, despite the federal government slashing $80 billion from state health and education budgets, “we’ve still been seeing a doubling of the federal budget deficit.

“We have a problem to be solved. Instead the Treasurer [Scott Morrison] is misleading voters saying that it is a spending problem, when it’s a revenue problem. We need to be more honest. Federal Labor has shut down debate about solutions.”

He said both sides of politics lacked the willingness to be honest about the problem.

“The Treasurer doesn’t want to be driven to a solution that will destabilise the government. Labor doesn’t want to concede there is a revenue problem”, because of the implications of that for the politics of the federal election campaign.

Mr Weatherill said he entered the tax debate after Mr Baird called out the need to increase the GST.

While Mr Morrison kept repeating a “jobs and growth” mantra about tax, Mr Weatherill said he “hasn’t demonstrated any correlation between change in the tax mix and jobs growth.

“The other dimension of the federal argument seems to be that the states should be raising more of their own taxes”, he said.

“But this seems to run contrary to their arguments about the correlation between growth and tax change, since they are effectively advocating an increase in inefficient taxes.”

China anger as US warship skirts Beijing-controlled island


China has strongly condemned the United States after an American warship deliberately sailed near one of its islands in the hotly-contested South China Sea to exercise freedom of navigation and challenge Beijing’s vast territorial claims.

The missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel chain “to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands”, without notifying the three claimants beforehand, defence department spokesman Mark Wright said in Washington.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from ships transiting what they consider their territorial waters.

The latest operation was particularly aimed at China, which has increased tensions with the US and its south-east Asian neighbours by embarking on massive construction of man-made islands and airstrips in contested areas.

In October, another US warship sailed in the nearby Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built one of seven artificial islands.

Mr Wright said the attempts to restrict navigational rights by requiring prior notice were inconsistent with international law. US officials said such ship movements would be regular in the future.

China responded swiftly, with defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun saying the US action “severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region’ s peace and stability”.

Chinese warned armed forces would take whatever measures “necessary to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the US side may take”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the Chinese side conducted surveillance and “vocal warnings to the US warship”.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls on historic grounds. The area has some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and US officials say ensuring freedom of navigation is in American national interests, while not taking sides in the territorial disputes.

China seized the unpopulated Triton Island, an area of 0.46 sq. miles, from former South Vietnam in 1974. In May 2014, China parked a huge oil drilling platform off the Vietnamese coast in the area, prompting Vietnam to sent fishing boats and coastguard vessels to harass the rig and nearby Chinese vessels.