Joe Biden faces some criticism for saying allies India, Japan are ‘xenophobic’ and ‘don’t want immigrants’

Lumping both adversaries and allies together, he added that the reason why China, Japan, India and Russia were facing economic headwinds was because “they’re xenophobic”.

“They don’t want immigrants,” he said.

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US, Japan hail upgraded ties, unveil raft of bilateral deals following Biden-Kishida summit

US, Japan hail upgraded ties, unveil raft of bilateral deals following Biden-Kishida summit

The Japanese and Indian embassies in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither country has issued a formal response.

His remarks were the lead item on Indian news programmes, with prominent journalists responding critically.

“His advisers better get a grip on the president’s loose-cannon statements. If not, one of these days it could trigger a diplomatic storm,” Indian journalist Palki Sharma said in a prime-time broadcast, quoting the country’s promising economic growth figures. India, the world’s fastest-growing big country, is expanding at an annual rate of 6 to 7 per cent.

According to latest available data, there were nearly 4.9 million foreign-born residents in India – a country of 1.4 billion – as of 2020, making it the 14th top destination country globally.

Tokyo’s Japantimes news publication also reported on Biden’s comments, saying that Japan was “gradually opening the door to more immigrants” as a result of an ageing and shrinking population.

In December 2023, the number of foreign residents in Japan reached a record high of 3.4 million, marking a 10 per cent increase from the previous year and representing approximately 2.7 per cent of the total population of about 124 million.

Fuelled by ‘shared interests’, US-India ties ‘here to stay’ despite incidents

Some American defence and foreign policy analysts were also critical of Biden’s comments.

“Japan and India are two of our very stoutest and important allies. We should speak of them with respect, which they command and deserve,” said Elbridge Colby, a Pentagon official during president Donald Trump’s administration, said on X, formerly Twitter.

Ezra Cohen, an adjunct fellow at Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, said: “Insulting the two allies that are key to accomplishing the aims of your Asia ‘strategy’ sure seems like a good way to improve American security.”

According to Bill Drexel, an Indo-Pacific expert at the Centre for a New American Security, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, the remarks were “unnecessary and counterproductive”.

From left, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a Quad meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 20, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Cleo Paskal, a non-resident senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a think tank in Washington, said she thought Biden’s comments were unlikely to have a major effect on the “complex, interwoven and wide-ranging” relationships, but she added that it may “affect the way President Biden himself is viewed”.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that Biden’s point was “when it comes to who we are as a nation, we are a nation of immigrants, that is in our DNA”, describing the remarks as “a “broad comment”.

John Kirby, the national security spokesman at the White House, said Biden was not trying to insult other countries, and stressed that officials in India and Japan were no doubt aware that there wasn’t any ill intent.

Both Tokyo and New Delhi are key partners of Washington in the Indo-Pacific region and are members of the Quad, an informal security bloc led by the US that aims to address Beijing’s influence in this strategically vital area.

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