Japan, India Take Issue With Biden Comments

Aide says president was trying to endorse US history of accepting immigrants
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2024 6:45 PM CDT
Updated May 4, 2024 4:30 PM CDT
Biden Refers to Japan, an Ally, as 'Xenophobic'
President Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and first lady Jill Biden attend an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on April 10.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
UPDATE May 4, 2024 4:30 PM CDT

Japan and India on Saturday rebutted President Biden's assessment of them as "xenophobic" countries unwelcoming to immigrants. A Japanese official who declined to be named said Biden misunderstands the US ally's policies, the AP reports, while adding that the government understands the president was trying to stress the importance of immigrants to the US. A government official in New Delhi said Biden also has India all wrong. "We are actually not just not xenophobic, we are the most open, most pluralistic and in many ways the most understanding society in the world," External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said at a roundtable.

May 2, 2024 6:45 PM CDT

Three weeks after hosting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a state dinner at the White House, President Biden put Japan with different company in remarks at a campaign reception on Wednesday night. The president was expressing support for the US history of accepting immigrants when he said, per CNN: "Why is China stalling so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia? Why is India? Because they're xenophobic. They don't want immigrants."

The comments could hurt the Biden administration's ongoing efforts to win the help of Japan and India—which also was honored at a Biden White House state dinner—to counter China's aggression in their part of the world. John Kirby told reporters Thursday that Biden didn't mean to insult anybody and that he was intending to comment about US immigration. Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, said India and Japan understand Biden's point, per the New York Times. "Our allies and partners know well in tangible ways how President Biden values them, their friendship, their cooperation," Kirby said.

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Biden said something similar in March in an interview with a Spanish language radio station. "The Japanese, the Chinese, they're xenophobic, they don't want any—the Russians, they don't want to have people, other than Russians, Chinese, or Japanese," he said. The president has used tougher-sounding rhetoric lately about the southern border, suggesting policies and actions including shutting it down, per the Times. Maribel Hernández Rivera, an immigration advocate for the ACLU, said she hopes Biden's off-camera comments indicate he's rethinking some of those changes. (More President Biden stories.)

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