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Biden calls US ally Japan ‘xenophobic’ along with Russia and China

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

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


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

The president made the remark during the off-camera event, while asserting that Japan, along with India, Russia and China, would perform better economically if those countries were more accepting of immigration.

“You know, one of the reasons our economy is growing is because of you and many others. For what? Because we welcome immigrants. We look at the reason, think about it: why is China stagnating so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why 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 on Biden’s comments released by pool reporters 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 by calling Japan and India “xenophobic.”

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

She described the relationship between the United States and Japan as “important” and “enduring” and one that would continue, despite Biden’s comment. As for whether the president would make similar remarks in the future, she said, “That depends on the president.”

Earlier in the day, 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 appreciates the capabilities they bring across the spectrum on a range of issues, not just security-related,” Kirby said.

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

“The Japanese, the Chinese, they are xenophobic, they don’t want them – the Russians, they don’t want people other than Russians, Chinese or Japanese,” the president declared at the time.

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

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

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

Japan has long been experiencing a demographic crisis with considerable consequences for the country’s workforce and economy. Japan and other East Asian countries have largely shied away from using immigration to bolster their populations.

The president’s comments also come as he faces political pressure at home over his own immigration policy, amid limited resources to deal with an influx of migrants and sharp 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.

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