Biden labels Japan as 'xenophobic' weeks after hosting prime minister

Biden's comments sparked criticism and raised questions about diplomatic relations with Japan.

Biden labels Japan as 'xenophobic' weeks after hosting prime minister
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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President Joe Biden recently referred to Japan, a key U.S. ally, as "xenophobic" during a campaign reception in Washington, D.C., just weeks after hosting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for talks and a lavish state dinner in the nation's capital. The comments, made while arguing that immigration can help create strong economies, have drawn criticism from political figures and raised questions about the state of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

According to a White House transcript, Biden said, "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 continued, "Immigrants is [sic] what makes us strong. Not a joke. That's not hyperbole. Because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and just contribute."

Japan recently entered a recession amid a population decline, losing its position as the world's third-largest economy. However, local media reported in March that government data showed the nation had reached a record 3.4 million foreign residents in 2023, with employment-related visas increasing to meet the demand created by a labor shortage.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, criticized Biden for labeling Japan as "xenophobic" alongside U.S. adversaries China and Russia. Rubio quipped on X, "That is why his staff doesn't want him speaking without those note cards," alluding to concerns about Biden's mental state as he seeks a second term in the upcoming presidential election.

The president's comments stand in stark contrast to his remarks made just last month during a state dinner at the White House with Kishida and a host of dignitaries. In a toast, Biden praised Japan, stating, "Well, we are the same, Japan and the United States. Many — we may be divided by distance, but the — generations after generation, we've been brought together — the same hopes, the same values, the same commitment to democracy and freedom and to dignity for all." He added, "And today, without question, our alliance is literally stronger than it has even been."

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