It was not always like this. For much of the post-World War II era, countries of the region made claims to parts of the East and South China seas, but they lacked the military capability or interest in pressing claims aggressively. Ten years ago, China and its neighbors took a cooperative approach. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed by Southeast Asian nations and China in 2002, called for mutual consultation and confidence-building measures by all parties to the dispute. Japan, Taiwan, and China, which contested small islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus (Diaoyu Islands in Chinese), did not let competing claims hamper trade or diplomacy.