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Japan says Joe Biden's 'xenophobia' comment is regrettable

May 7, 2024

US President Joe Biden's unflattering remarks about "xenophobia" hindering the economic growth of Japan and some other countries prompted Tokyo to express regret.

US President Joe Biden (center), Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos (left) at the White House on April 11, 2024 in Washington, DC
Last month, Joe Biden held a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (left)Image: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Japan on Tuesday lamented a "regrettable" recent comment by US President Joe Biden that "xenophobia" was hampering economic growth in the Asian country.

"We lodged representations to the United States that the comment was not based on the correct understanding of Japan's policy and regrettable," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.

But Hayashi added that Japan's relationship with its security ally was stronger than ever, and Tokyo would work to strengthen it further.

What exactly did Biden say?

Last week, at a fundraiser for his 2024 re-election campaign in Washington, Biden said, "One of the reasons why our economy's growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants."

"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. Immigrants are what makes us strong," he added.

Biden's comments have caused some consternation in Japan, which is a largely homogenous country with a relatively low level of immigration.

But a declining birth rate and a rapidly aging population point to an acute labor shortage in the coming decades.

Biden affirms defense commitment with Japan and Philippines

Longtime partners and allies

The US and Japan are close partners and, along with Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Canada, are members of the G7, the group of leading Western industrialized nations.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Washington in April for a summit with Biden. The leaders unveiled plans for military cooperation and projects ranging from missiles to moon landings to strengthen ties to counter China and Russia.

Asked in a Newsweek interview whether he would encourage immigration to reverse the population decline, Kishida said Japan must consider inviting skilled workers. But he ruled out a broader immigration program.

dh/ab (Reuters, dpa)