Some Asian nations were allowed by the United Nations arbitration court in The Hague, Netherlands to watch the closed-door proceedings after their respective governments sent a request for a delegation to act as observers.
The court is currently hearing the oral arguments by representatives from the Philippine government to defend the subject of jurisdiction for the case against China, which the latter contested arguing that the arbitration is territorial, and not maritime in nature.
The proceedings started last on July 7 and will last until July 13.
The countries permitted as observers include Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam which all sent small delegation to the court to observe. Among the five countries, only Malaysia and Vietnam have stakes in the maritime disputes in South China Sea, while Japan is embroiled with the communist nation in a separate conflict in the East China Sea.
Their presence at The Hague hearing is widely viewed as a reflection of their interest in the case that has so far strained the relationship between China and other claimants, most especially the Philippines and Vietnam, and heightened regional tension over the past several months.
Indonesia and Thailand are both Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where Vietnam and the Philippines also belongs. ASEAN members are torn between its commitment to the group as part of the community and their respective interests in the diplomatic and economic relations with China.
Manila has been calling its other neighbors to take a common position against Beijing in condemning the massive reclamation works in the South China Sea where some members have separate and overlapping claims to a group of islands believe to be rich in gas and natural resources. (Click here to read more)