Weeks after hosting Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington D.C., President Joe Biden called the country “xenophobic” on Wednesday.

Biden made the remarks during a campaign reception in Washington, D.C., where he tried to make a case for immigration, saying it can help build strong economies.

“You know, one of the reasons why our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants. We look to — the reason — look, think about it,” he 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,” he continued, adding, “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.”

While Biden mentioned other countries in his listing of “xenophobic” countries, Japan stood out as it is an ally of the United States alongside India unlike China and Russia who are known adversaries with strained relationships with the West.

Hence, he got criticized for his labeling by lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who drew a connection to Biden’s mental state which has drawn concerns from American voters ahead of the November election.

“Biden included an important ally Japan along with China & Russia as a “xenophobic” country. That is why his staff doesn’t want him speaking without those note cards,” Rubio wrote.

Japan did not take Biden’s words well either, as several lawmakers from the country made posts on social media criticizing the U.S. president’s remarks.

House of Councilors member and leader of the right-wing populist Sansei Party Sohei Kamiya disputed Biden’s claims, saying that America’s failures are caused by immigration.

“It’s not that we’re xenophobic, we are being cautious after seeing your failures. You are meddling too much in our internal affairs.”

“Migration is a problem that European leaders are struggling with, too. There aren’t any countries that have solved this problem as of now,” wrote Mizuho Umemura, a member of the conservative Nippon Ishin no Kai Party who holds a seat in the House of Councilors.

“I hope that President Biden will solve the problem in New York before he says things like this. Depending on the presidential election, there could be a 180-degree change in policy, and there is no need for Japan to follow suit,” she added.

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby tried to save face on behalf of his boss by explaining that “the broader point the president was making, and I think people all around the world recognize this, is that the United States is a nation of immigrants and it’s in our DNA.”

“We’re stronger for it. We’re not going to walk away from it. And that’s the broader point that he was making,” he added.

When reporters asked him why Biden singled out Japan and India to make his point despite those nations being U.S. allies, Kirby said that the president was trying to praise the U.S., not verbally attack Japan.

“Again, making a broader point about this country, our country. Our allies know very well how much the president respects them, values their friendship, values their contributions. And you don’t have to look honestly very far, very hard to see that bear out in the things that we’ve been doing in the Indo-Pacific with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines,” he explained.