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.

 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.