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Japan tells US that Joe Biden’s ‘xenophobia’ comment is regrettable

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Japan has described as “regrettable” US President  Joe Biden’s comment that “xenophobia” is stifling the Asian nation’s economic growth, the top government spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Last week Biden said “xenophobia” in economies from China to Japan and India was hobbling their growth, while arguing at a Washington fund-raising event that migration has been good for the US economy.

“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 a regular news conference, without elaborating.

Hayashi was quick to add, however, that Japan’s ties with its security ally the United States were more solid than ever, and Tokyo will strive to make them even stronger.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Washington in April for a summit with Biden and unveiled plans for military co-operation and projects from missiles to moon landings, so as to strengthen ties with an eye to countering China and Russia.

Festive offer

At last week’s event to raise funds for his 2024 re-election campaign, 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.”

Japan, which prides itself on its homogeneity, has long been reticent about immigration, although its falling birth rate and a rapidly ageing population point to an acute labour shortage in the coming decades.

Asked in a Newsweek interview if he wanted to spur immigration to reverse the population decline, Kishida said Japan must consider inviting skilled workers, but ruled out a full-fledged immigration programme.

“For highly capable and motivated workers to be invited into Japan to provide support to Japanese society is what we would like to enable,” Kishida said in the interview, published last week.

“There are still some in Japanese society who are resistant to the idea of continuous, indefinite immigration of labour from overseas.”

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