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Biden calls allies India, Japan ‘xenophobic’ at fundraiser with Asian American donors

President's off-the-cuff remark came amid U.S. Steel tiff with Tokyo

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrive for a joint press conference at the White House on April 10.
President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrive for a joint press conference at the White House on April 10. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden urged Asian countries to be more welcoming of immigrants, arguing to Asian American donors Wednesday evening that doing so would boost regional economies — but he also awkwardly referred to several key allies as “xenophobic.”

“You know, one of the reasons why our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden said at Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel, according to a pool report. “We look to — the reason — 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. Immigrants are what makes us strong,” the president said a couple hours after Donald Trump used a campaign rally to push his anti-migration policy proposals. “Not a joke. That’s not hyperbole. Because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and want to contribute.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, sidestepped the question when asked Thursday whether Biden would apologize. What Biden was trying to communicate, she told reporters onboard Air Force One en route to Charlotte, N.C., was this: “We are a nation of immigrants. That is in our DNA.”

Biden’s remarks came several weeks after Japan’s leader, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was at the White House for discussions on a range of issues and a state dinner. Biden and Kishida announced new steps intended to deepen U.S.-Japanese ties economically, diplomatically and militarily. The comment also came amid a tiff with Kishida’s government over the proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel by a Japanese firm; Biden has forcefully said he opposes the transaction, arguing that the United States needs to produce its own steel.

Biden also has courted India, trying to keep Prime Minister Narendra Modi from drifting into closer relations with both China and Russia. U.S. officials consider India and Japan key allies in the Biden administration’s efforts to isolate Beijing economically and militarily in the Indo-Pacific region.

The International Monetary Fund recently predicted that the Chinese, Russian, Indian and Japanese economies each would grow slower in 2024 than in 2023. The IMF predicted that the U.S. economy would grow at a rate of 2.7 percent this year, which would be an uptick from last year’s 2.5 percent.

Biden made a similar comment about Asian countries last month during an interview with a Spanish-language radio network.

His comments during Wednesday’s fundraiser came in between a pair of Trump rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan, two key Rust Belt swing states.

During both events, Trump contended that Biden had “failed” along the southern U.S. border, ignoring that, like under Biden, Trump’s own presidency also saw an increase in illegal border crossings. Trump has vowed to be a “dictator on Day One” of a second term while using all available executive powers to seal the southern border and order a large increase in domestic oil and national gas extraction.

Trump also has talked about using U.S. military troops to carry out a mass deportation program, despite a federal law that prohibits the use of active-duty forces on U.S. soil without a waiver from Congress.

“They’re coming in by the millions. That’s why this November, the people of Michigan are going to tell ‘Crooked’ Joe Biden: Biden, you’re fired. Get out of here,” Trump told loyalists in Freeland, Mich., on Wednesday. He was using his preferred derisive nickname for the president, even though Biden has not been charged with a crime and a House GOP impeachment probe appears to have fizzled.

Trump contended, without offering evidence, that the “prison population all over the world is down, and nobody knows why except for us. We know why: because the prisons are being emptied into the United States, and the mental institutions are being emptied into the United States of America.”

“And this is not sustainable. … No country can sustain this,” Trump added.

At his first Wednesday rally in Waukesha, Wis., the former president contended that Biden’s migration and border policies have created “the conditions for an Oct. 7-style attack right here in America — it’s going to happen with all of these people coming in from the southern border.”

Officials also have pushed back on the notion that violent extremists are coming over the southern border in droves, as Trump and other Republicans claim.

Biden is back on the campaign trail on Thursday, with a campaign event in Wilmington, N.C., after a stop in Charlotte to honor several law enforcement officers who were shot dead there this week. Trump is back in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday and Friday in a criminal hush money case, and slated to get back on the trail Saturday, with a rally in Wildwood, N.J.

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