President Biden labels Japan and India ’Xenophobic,’ stirs controversy among key allies

By Esther Muhozi
On 3 May 2024 at 12:04

US President Joe Biden has referred to Japan and India as "xenophobic," associating them with Russia and China as nations averse to accepting immigrants.

This statement emerged just after he praised the enduring strength of the US-Japan relationship during Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s state visit.

Despite significant partnerships with India, the US has voiced concerns over human rights and religious freedom there.

The White House clarified that Biden’s remarks were not meant to offend either nation.

Addressing an Asian-American audience at a fundraising event, Biden emphasized the upcoming US election’s focus on "freedom, America, and democracy," attributing economic struggles in China, Japan, Russia, and India to their xenophobic attitudes towards immigration.

The BBC sought responses from the US embassies in Japan, India, China, and Russia but received none immediately.

US commentators criticized Biden’s comments. Elbridge Colby, ex-deputy assistant secretary of defense, expressed on X (formerly Twitter) that respectful communication is essential with key allies like Japan and India.

While Japan, India, and China host relatively few foreign workers, Russia relies significantly on migrant labor. Economic conditions vary across these nations, with India notably surpassing the UK as the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2023.

The White House denied any derogatory intent behind Biden’s statements, with national security spokesman John Kirby highlighting Biden’s commitment to US immigration policies and the value he places on international alliances.

Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute noted that Biden’s remarks might resonate negatively in India, especially during a nationalist surge, potentially reinforcing perceptions of Biden’s unfriendliness towards India.

A recent US State Department report criticized India for significant human rights issues, which India rebuffed as biased.

Dhume suggested that the fallout from these comments is likely a minor disturbance and won’t deeply impact US-Indian relations.

Concurrently, Japan is adjusting its strict immigration policies to mitigate its declining population.

Biden, known for labeling Donald Trump as xenophobic in the 2020 campaign, faces criticism for his increasingly restrictive immigration measures amidst bipartisan dissatisfaction with his management of the US-Mexico border issues.

Biden who recently met with Fumio Kishida has announced that Japan dislikes foreigners.