Photo/IllutrationA selfie taken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a round of golf with U.S. President Donald Trump in May (Captured from the Twitter account of the prime minister's office)

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Accurate numbers don’t seem to matter. The words of experienced officials have been brushed aside. And even a highly trumpeted close relationship between two world leaders is not making a difference.

U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to make Japan pay more in host nation support to U.S. forces stationed here.

Trump has repeatedly complained that U.S. allies are not providing enough support to the U.S. military for its protection. Tokyo has become accustomed to these complaints.

However, Japanese officials were taken aback by a report that said John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, raised the possibility that Washington would seek a fivefold increase in Japan’s host nation support.

Other sources said a threefold increase was being considered. In any case, the proposal could simply be an opening gambit in what could become very difficult negotiations.

The report, citing several government sources, said Bolton made the suggestion in a meeting with Japanese officials in Tokyo in July.

Given Bolton’s position, the proposal was seen as coming directly from Trump.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on July 31 flatly denied that such a proposal had been made.

Other officials were flabbergasted at the scale of the suggested increase.

“The (fivefold) figure is close to impossible,” a Foreign Ministry source said.

Another high-ranking government official said a fivefold increase “would exceed the total cost of hosting the U.S. military in Japan.”

Trump has gotten his facts wrong on how much Japan spends in the “sympathy budget” for the U.S. military.

In their various meetings, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to explain to Trump the true nature of Japan’s contributions.

According to a source knowledgeable about the bilateral alliance, when Abe and Trump met in the Japanese capital on May 27, the U.S. president expressed dissatisfaction that Tokyo only shouldered about 30 percent of the cost of basing the U.S. military in Japan.

Trump also complained that although the United States imports no petroleum through the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East, the U.S. military still protects that vital sea lane while Japan sells Toyota vehicles around the world.

Abe explained to Trump that it was Germany that contributed 30 percent for host nation support, while Japan’s share was 74 percent.

Trump told Abe not to worry because the United States would squeeze more out of Germany and South Korea, the source said.

A Pentagon report issued in 2004 said that Japan covered 74.5 percent of the cost of hosting the U.S. military while Germany’s ratio was 32.6 percent.

Fearing a repeat of such a confused exchange, Japanese government officials asked their U.S. counterparts not to include host nation support on the agenda for the Abe-Trump meeting in late June on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka.

And while the topic was not broached at that meeting, Trump did say at a subsequent news conference in Osaka that he considered the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to be unfair.

Sources said Japanese government officials have repeatedly explained the nature of the bilateral alliance and host nation support to their U.S. counterparts, and had obtained a level of understanding among those working in the U.S. State and Defense departments.

However, such efforts apparently have done nothing to change Trump’s thinking.

On his visit to Japan on July 21-22 and his later trip to South Korea, Bolton passed on Trump’s intention to ask both nations to greatly increase their host nation support. He also told Japanese and South Korean officials that Trump would not change his views.

Trump could be pressing the issue because if the U.S. allies agree to spend more on the U.S. military, he could tout that achievement in his bid for re-election next year.

The U.S. president has also complained about the defense-spending levels of NATO members, but many European nations have kept their distance from Trump and not expressed any intention of increasing their payments to support the U.S. military.

One U.S. government source said Trump was targeting rich nations that he believes would not refuse his requests for greater host nation support. Japan fits that description, the source added.

(This article was written by Yoshihiro Makino, a senior staff writer, Shigeki Tosa in Washington and Ryo Kiyomiya in Tokyo.)