JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa summoned the United States' senior diplomat in the capital Pretoria on Monday over President Donald Trump's recent disparaging comments about African nations and Haiti.
Mr. Trump has been accused of describing African nations as "shithole countries" during a meeting with U.S. senators last week. He has denied making the statements as well as ensuing accusations that he is racist.
South Africa's foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it planned to call on the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires on Monday to provide an opportunity "to explain the statement that African countries constitute 'shitholes' from where migrants into the United States are undesirable."
"Relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding," the statement from South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.
The U.S. Embassy confirmed receipt of the government's request on Monday.
"We agree to the importance of strong relations between South Africa and the United States that are based on mutual respect and understanding," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Cindy Harvey said in a statement.
Mr. Trump's comments were met with widespread consternation in Africa, with an African Union spokeswoman saying the body was "frankly alarmed."
"Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice," AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. The governments of Namibia and Botswana have also condemned the comments.
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria said on Friday that the U.S. commitment to Africa's "continued growth and success is unwavering. Our progress forward will not be diverted by anything contrary to those goals."
While the president later issued his own tweet, vaguely denying "language" he was accused of using, the White House did not quickly deny Mr. Trump's remarks, which were first reported by The Washington Post and later confirmed by CBS News' Nancy Cordes.
"Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?" the president said in the Oval Office meeting with a handful of members of the House and Senate. "We should bring in more people from places like Norway," he added.