It is regrettable that it took a series of increasingly blunt warnings from Beijing before the US and Japan were finally willing to take action to prop up the yen, so stemming the most dangerous element of the regional crisis, at least for the moment. Having contributed to the yen's slide last week, through US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's ill-judged remark that there was little point in such intervention, Washington had a responsibility to help undo some of the damage of those comments. But the responsibility rests even more heavily on the shoulders of Tokyo, which has come perilously close to dragging Asia into an economic meltdown. Currency intervention only buys time. And it may not buy very much time. On the last occasion the Bank of Japan intervened in the markets, it arrested the yen's decline for barely two weeks. That highlights the urgency with which Tokyo must now move to tackle the causes of its economic stagnation. World leaders have placed great faith in Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's pledge to take drastic action to tackle Japan's biggest problem: the 22 trillion yen (HK$1.2 trillion) in bad debts that is crippling the banking sector and forcing asset prices into a downwards spiral. But this would not be the first time Tokyo's leaders have made resolute pledges only later to shrink from the politically tough decisions needed to carry them out. There are some signs of a more responsible attitude this time. Notably a promise to ensure the already-announced 20 trillion yen in extra public spending is pumped into the economy before September. With parliamentary elections due next month, it may be unrealistic to expect decisive action from Mr Hashimoto in the short term. Crucial issues, such as the need for permanent tax cuts, are still only being addressed in highly hesitant terms. That makes it vital for the international community to keep up its pressure on Tokyo for a faster timetable for economic reforms. As the world's largest economy, the US has a special responsibility to remain involved, rather than retreating to the do-nothing approach Mr Rubin clearly prefers. But Europe and other major economies should also reflect on the global meltdown that may follow if the yen resumes its freefall, and join the chorus pressing Tokyo to ensure this can not happen.