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Japan and India furiously rejected statements by US President Joe Biden this week calling the two allies “xenophobic” countries for not welcoming immigrants, while also grouping them in with China and Russia, Al Jazeera reported.

Biden’s comments came during a campaign fundraiser, where he remarked that China, Russia, India, and Japan were stalling economically because “they don’t want immigrants.”

Officials later clarified that the comments were meant to underscore the role immigrants play in strengthening the US economy and did not have “the intent of undermining” the US-Japan relationship, according to the BBC.

In a statement, Japan’s embassy in Washington DC described the president’s remarks as “unfortunate” and “not based on an accurate understanding of Japan’s policies.” However, it acknowledged the Biden administration’s clarification, adding that the statements would not impact the relationship between the two allies.

India also countered that it has historically been open to immigrants and that its economy is “not faltering.”

Separately, Chinese pundits also chided Biden, with one claiming the US president was “obsessed with smearing China.”

The comments struck a chord among observers, particularly because the Biden administration has made a point of boosting relations with both nations since taking office in 2021.

Japan has the lowest immigrant population of any Group of Seven nations – around two percent – and has historically imposed a strict immigration policy. But in recent years it has opened its doors to foreigners to make up for its rising aging population.

Meanwhile, India has drawn criticism for its implementation of the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act, which expedites naturalization for non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

While the law facilitates the migration process for some asylum seekers, opponents argue it discriminates against Muslims and violates the constitution.

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