This article assesses characterization issues under the law of the sea, through the medium of an International Law Studies “maritime situation.” The article begins with a hypothetical scenario concerning an incident between a NATO warship and PRC vessels near Subi Reef and Thitu Island in the South China Sea. The analysis then turns to how we might assess characterization issues under the law of the sea as they apply to this incident. The lenses of analysis employed are: (1) Where, in law of the sea terms, did the incident happen? (2) Who, employing a law of the sea characterization scheme, but referencing relevant responsibility regimes, were the perpetrator vessels? (3) Where does responsibility for the conduct of these vessels lay? (4) How do these “where” and “who” factors interact in assessing the incident in terms of the law of the sea?