With friends like these: Biden’s bizarre whack at ‘xenophobic’ Japan, India

US President Joe Biden has called Japan and India “xenophobic” countries that do not welcome immigrants, lumping the two with adversaries China and Russia as he tried to explain their economic circumstances and contrasted the four with the United States on immigration.

May 03, 2024, updated May 03, 2024
President Joe Biden has announced he will run for a second term in office.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Joe Biden has announced he will run for a second term in office. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The remarks, at a campaign fundraising event on Wednesday evening, came just three weeks after the White House hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a lavish official visit, during which the two leaders celebrated what Biden called an “unbreakable alliance,” particularly on global security matters.

The White House welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi for a state visit last northern summer.

Japan is a critical US ally.

And India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is a vital partner despite differences on human rights.

At a hotel fundraiser where the donor audience was largely Asian American, Biden said the upcoming US election was about “freedom, America and democracy” and that the country’s economy was thriving “because of you and many others”.

“Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden said.

“Look, think about it. 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 president added: “Immigrants are what makes us strong. Not a joke. That’s not hyperbole, because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and want to contribute.”

There was no immediate reaction from either the Japanese or Indian governments.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden was making a broader point about the US posture on immigration.

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“Our allies and partners know well in tangible ways how President Biden values them, their friendship, their co-operation and the capabilities that they bring across the spectrum on a range of issues, not just security related,” Kirby said on Thursday morning when asked about Biden’s “xenophobic” remarks.

“They understand how much he completely and utterly values the idea of alliances and partnerships.”

Japan has acknowledged issues with its shrinking population, and the number of babies born in the country in 2023 fell for the eighth straight year, according to data released in February.

Kishida has called the low birth rate in Japan “the biggest crisis Japan faces” and the country has long been known for a more closed-door stance on immigration although Kishida’s government has, in recent years, shifted its policies to make it easier for foreign workers to come to Japan.

Meanwhile, India’s population has swelled to become the world’s largest, with the United Nations saying it was on track to reach 1.425 billion.

Its population also skews younger.

Earlier this year, India enacted a new citizenship law that fast-tracks naturalisation for Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who fled to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but it excludes Muslims, who are a majority in all three countries.

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