Biden calls US ally Japan, along with India, Russia and China, “xenophobic”

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 26.


On Wednesday, President Joe Biden called close U.S. ally Japan “xenophobic” at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., just weeks after praising the U.S.-Japan alliance at a state dinner. .

The president made the comment at the off-camera event while arguing that Japan, along with India, Russia and China, would do better economically if countries embraced immigration more.

“You know, one of the reasons our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Because? Because we welcome immigrants. We look for – the reason – look at her, think about it – why is China stagnating so much economically? Why is Japan having problems? Why is it Russia? Why India? Because they are xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants,” Biden said, according to an official White House transcript released Thursday. An initial report of Biden’s comments published by journalists did not include India in the list of countries he mentioned.

On Thursday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president was trying to make a broader point when he described Japan and India as “xenophobic.”

“He was saying that when it comes to who we are as a nation, we are a nation of immigrants, that’s in our DNA,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One, adding later that Biden was making a “broad comment.” in his Commentaries on Japan and India.

He described the US-Japan relationship as “important” and “enduring” that would continue, despite Biden’s comment. As to whether the president would make similar comments in the future, he said, “That’s up to the president.”

Hours earlier, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said he was not aware of any communications between the White House and the governments of Japan or India.

“President Biden values ​​the capabilities they bring across the spectrum on a range of issues, not just security-related ones,” Kirby said.

Biden had also called Japan, Russia and China “xenophobic” during an interview with a Spanish-language radio station in March.

“The Japanese, the Chinese, are xenophobic, they don’t want anything; the Russians, they don’t want to have people who are not Russian, Chinese or Japanese,” the president said at the time.

The latest criticism of Japan comes less than a month after it hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on a state visit and nearly a year after the president hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his own visit. of State. Biden has relied on improving relations with both Japan and India as important counterweights to China’s growing global influence.

At the state dinner at the White House in April, Biden said Japan and the United States share “the same values, the same commitment to democracy and freedom with dignity.”

“And today, without a doubt, our alliance is literally stronger than ever,” Biden said during the dinner.

Japan has long experienced a demographic crisis with far-reaching consequences for the country’s workforce and economy. Japan and other East Asian nations have largely avoided using immigration to bolster their populations.

The president’s comments also come as he faces political pressure at home over his own immigration policies amid limited resources to deal with the influx of immigrants and harsh criticism from Republicans.

This story has been updated with a quote from the official White House transcript and additional reporting.

cnn Jessie Yeung contributed to this report.