The first formal claim on the islands came in 1895 when the Empire of Japan formally incorporated the islands and installed markers on them to clearly show them as being Japanese territory. No other power had ever even attempted to do something similar at any point in the past. In fact, Chinese records dating back to the Ming dynasty clearly show the islands being labeled as non-Chinese territory and more recent Chinese maps and documents list them as belonging to Japan and label them with the Japanese rather than the Chinese names for them. The best China can do is to point to some “discovered” historical maps which show the islands labeled in Chinese. However, these merely prove that the Chinese knew of their existence, not that they were Chinese territory. Furthermore, words alone have never been deemed enough to lay claim to a territory. One can claim to own anything in the world but unless some effort is made to actually possess such a territory, the claim is meaningless. Recently, the Chinese republics have become quite adept at finding historical maps that show just about everything around them as belonging to China. Thankfully, these are all meaningless to the current dispute as they do not take into account the many international agreements and treaties made in the intervening centuries. After all, there are historical maps which show Florida belonging to Spain, most of France belonging to England or Poland belonging to Russia yet they have no bearing on the current legal status of any of these places.
In fact, as late as 1969 officially Chinese documents still listed the Senkakus as Japanese territory. During the American occupation, U.S. forces even used a couple of the islands as a bombing range for American aircraft and yet, during all that time, China raised no protest. Surely, if they truly believed these islands were Chinese territory, they would have at least raised their voices slightly when they were being bombed by American aircraft, but, not a sound was heard. The situation only began to change in 1969 (the same year the Chinese still say the Senkakus belong to Japan) when the UN identified potential oil and natural gas reserves in the area surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Suddenly, as if by a miracle, the bandit government in Peking became interested. Yet, they still said nothing until 1972. What happened in 1972? Purely by coincidence I am sure, this is when the United States ended its occupation of the Ryukyu Islands, including the Senkakus, handing them back over to Japan (the Allied occupation of Japan having ended in 1952). So it was only then, once oil and natural gas had been discovered and after the United States was no longer responsible for the area, that the Chinese republics suddenly announced to the world that the Senkaku Islands had “always” been Chinese.