Japanese businesses shut down operations in China for fear of bitter backlashes as tensions over disputed islands mount, Financial Times reports.

Expatriates were also urged by the Japanese embassy to stay indoors for safety reasons as increasingly violent protests filled the streets across China, triggered by the Japanese government’s announcement last week that it had nationalized three islands from the chain in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Daioyu in China. According to the FT, protests are expected to continue until Tuesday, marking the 81st anniversary of the Mukden or Manchurian Incident in 1931, wherein the Imperial Japanese Army blew up a railway before invading northeastern China.

Several Japanese companies were forced to close up shop, including Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo outlets and Seven & I Holdings’ 7-11 convenience stores. Japanese electronics group Canon announced that it had suspended operations at three factories until Wednesday.

This comes as US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to visit Asia with hopes of urging countries to defuse tensions. Mr. Panetta, speaking ahead of his trip to Tokyo, warned that “provocative behaviour” of any kind could ignite warfare in the region. “It is in everybody’s interests for … Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation,” he told FT. Mr. Panetta is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Monday.