WASHINGTON — Foreign diplomats are expressing alarm to US government officials about what they say are inflammatory and insulting public statements by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, according to senior US officials.
Officials from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia have complained in recent private conversations mostly about the xenophobic nature of Mr Trump’s statements, said three US officials, who all declined to be identified.
"As the (Trump) rhetoric has continued, and in some cases amped up, so, too, have concerns by certain leaders around the world," said one of the officials.
The three officials declined to disclose a full list of countries whose diplomats have complained, but two said they included at least India, South Korea, Japan and Mexico.
US officials said it was highly unusual for foreign diplomats to express concern, even privately, about candidates in the midst of a presidential campaign. US allies in particular usually do not want to be seen as meddling in domestic politics, mindful that they will have to work with whoever wins.
Senior leaders in several countries — including Britain, Mexico, France and Canada — have already made public comments criticising Mr Trump’s positions. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel branded him a threat to peace and prosperity in an interview published on Sunday.
Mr Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the private diplomatic complaints.
Japan’s embassy declined to comment. The Indian and South Korean embassies did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Mexican government would not confirm any private complaints but noted that its top diplomat, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, said last week that Mr Trump’s policies and comments were "ignorant and racist" and that his plan to build a border wall to stop illegal immigration was "absurd".
The foreign officials have been particularly disturbed by the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim themes that the billionaire real-estate mogul has pushed, according to the US officials.
European and Middle Eastern government representatives have expressed dismay to US officials about anti-Muslim declarations by Mr Trump that they say are being used in recruiting pitches by the Islamic State (IS) and other violent jihadist groups.
On December 7, Mr Trump’s campaign issued a written statement saying that he was "calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on." Mr Trump subsequently said in TV interviews that American Muslims travelling abroad would be allowed to return to the country, as would Muslim members of the US military or Muslim athletes coming to compete in the US.
There are also concerns abroad that the US would become more insular under Mr Trump, who has pledged to tear up international trade agreements and push allies to take a bigger role in tackling Middle East conflicts.
"European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic," said a senior Nato official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"With the European Union (EU) facing an existential crisis, there’s more than the usual anxiety about the US turning inward when Europe needs US support more than ever." Another of the senior US officials said the complaints were coming mostly from mid-to low-ranking diplomats — described as "working level" — rather than from the most senior officials.
"The responses have ranged from amusement to befuddlement to curiosity," the official said. "In some cases, we’ve heard expressions of alarm, but those have been more in response to the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, as well as the general sense of xenophobia."
More than 100 Republican foreign policy veterans pledged this week to oppose Mr Trump, saying in an open letter that his proposals would undermine US security.
On Tuesday, General Philip Breedlove, the US’ top military commander in Europe, said that the US elections were stirring concerns among America’s allies.
"I get a lot of questions from our European counterparts on our election process this time in general," said Gen Breedlove, who did not mention Mr Trump by name. "And I think they see a very different sort of public discussion than they have in the past." While not confirming the content of private diplomatic contacts, some foreign officials acknowledged their governments’ concerns about Mr Trump.
A British official noted that in January, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "What Donald Trump says is, in my view, not only wrong, but actually it makes the work we need to do to confront and defeat the extremists more difficult."
A Chinese official referred to a statement last week from China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman. Asked whether China was concerned about Mr Trump’s proposal to place high tariffs on Chinese goods, Hua Chunyin declined to comment on specific candidates. But she said "I want to stress" that China and the US have "major responsibilities" in maintaining international political and economic stability.
Representatives of other countries publicly attacked by Mr Trump, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam either had no comment or did not respond to requests for comments.
Several American foreign policy experts said foreign diplomats have complained to them as well.
"All foreign diplomats I’ve talked to are amazed at the Trump phenomenon and worried about it, especially in the Middle East and Europe," said Elliott Abrams, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009 under then president George W Bush.