Bill Hayton

Bill Hayton

Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House, UK

Bill Hayton is an associate fellow of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House in the UK.

This photo taken on 22 August 2023 shows a Chinese coast guard ship (left) shadowing a Philippine civilian boat chartered by the Philippine navy to deliver supplies to Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre in the disputed South China Sea. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

China’s claim on the South China Sea: How many dashes make a line?

China’s new map depicting its claims to the South China Sea has provoked some fierce reactions from its neighbours. The fact is that the “new” map is anything but.
 A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, 29 March 2014. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

This might be the way to solve the South China Sea disputes

Given that the historical evidence of physical acts of administration on the disputed rocks and reefs suggests that, with some important exceptions, the current occupiers of each feature have the best claim to sovereignty over it, Southeast Asian states have an interest in recognising each other’s de facto occupation of specific features and then presenting a united position to China. In tandem, NGOs can play a useful role by forming a "track two tribunal" to collect rival pieces of evidence, test the claimants’ legal arguments, and present the likely outcomes of any future international court hearing.