SASABE, Ariz. — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending his use of a Japanese greeting when responding to a question from a congresswoman of Japanese descent.

The Arizona Republic reported Sunday that Zinke was asked about his use of the word "konnichiwa" while touring the U.S-Mexico border in Arizona on Saturday.

Zinke told reporters: "How could ever saying 'good morning' be bad?"

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, of Hawaii, asked Zinke on Thursday whether he would continue a program that preserves sites where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II.

Zinke replied with "konnichiwa" — a Japanese greeting typically spoken in the afternoon. The Democratic congresswoman corrected him and used the Japanese phrase for good morning.

In a statement Saturday, Hanabusa said "this is precisely why Japanese Americans were treated as they were more than 75 years ago. It is racial stereotyping."