Oh for heaven's sake. Could someone just compile a list of words we are allowed to use and then we can get on with communicating clearly with each other?
To Western Europeans, it's not immediately obvious how to identify racial differences between mid- and far-Eastern peoples. This is compounded not by racism but genetics (cf. "they all look the same to me"); humans are intrinsically bad at differentiating facial features outside their of own creed.
But anyway. If you put, say, a Japanese gentleman in a room together with similar representatives from China, Vietnam, Thailand, N/S Korea, etc, and asked your average Brit to identify the nationalities, they wouldn't be able to do it. Similarly, shibboleths aside, if you were to group a Canadian, an Englishman, a Welshman, a German, would you tell the difference?
So how do we politically correctly describe someone who is of indeterminate nationality but obvious race? "Yeah, there were three lads there officer, a white guy, er, a brown one and a yellow one."
I've always believed "Asian" (Indian / Pakistani) and "Oriental" (Chinese / Japanese) to be safe terms. You wouldn't blink at someone suggesting that a vase had obvious "oriental influences" in its design. But now this is offensive? We're running out of adjectives.
I knew the US used 'Asian' to mean what we'd call 'Oriental', I've fallen foul of that before, though I can't remember offhand how they'd refer to someone of from the Indian subcontinent. I'd guess they get grouped in as 'black' with all the hand luggage that comes with that? "Indian" is a whole other minefield in the US of course.
Incidentally, next time you're laid up at an airport, have a game of "guess the nationality." It's fascinating.