The Final Report of the Tokyo Forum is entitled, “Facing Nuclear Dangers: An Action Plan for the 21st Century.” The Report, however, is not nearly as bold as its title would suggest. A clue as to why this may be so is found in paragraph 12 of the opening section of the Report where it states, “Terrorism using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons has been possible for some time, but serious policymakers have traditionally seen other threats as more pressing.” The members of the Tokyo Forum have aimed their recommendations at influencing such “serious policymakers,” particularly those in the nuclear weapons states. The Final Report ends up being short on vision, and proposes only incremental changes, the kind that might be acceptable to those who have no real desire to change the status quo.

The Report recognizes, “the fabric of international security is unraveling and nuclear dangers are growing at a disturbing rate.” This is a diagnosis that calls for strong medicine. The Tokyo Forum, however, offers only weak tea and toast, proposals unlikely to offend the “serious policymakers” in the nuclear weapons states. In doing so, the Report falls painfully short of the mark as to what is needed as we approach the beginning of a new century and millennium. Like Nero, the “serious policymakers” in the nuclear weapons states have been fiddling while the nuclear fuse continues to burn.

When it comes to the issue of nuclear proliferation, the Report finds that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) “must be reaffirmed and revitalized.” With breathtaking logic, the Report reaches the conclusion that “The discriminatory basis of the NPT regime need not constitute a moral and practical flaw in the treaty provided that the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear weapon states keep their parts of the bargain.” The problem here is that the nuclear weapons states have never kept their part of the bargain, and seem far more intent on maintaining a two-tier structure of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots” than in doing so.

One bright point in the Report is its denunciation of the use of nuclear weapons to deter a chemical, biological or large-scale conventional attack. The Report states, “Until they are abolished, the Tokyo Forum believes that the only function of nuclear weapons is to deter the use of other nuclear weapons.” This is a position with which many so-called “serious policymakers” in the nuclear weapons states apparently do not agree. U.S. Presidential Decision Directive 60, a secret document, is purported to expand the use of nuclear weapons to counter chemical or biological attacks.

In the end, the Report fails to ask enough of the nuclear weapons states. It calls on the U.S. and Russia “to further extend reductions to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads.” This is a step in the right direction, but far from sufficient. The Report asks for a “goal of zero nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.” Recognizing millennial computer risks, the Report calls for removing nuclear weapons from alert status “for the period of concern.” Good idea, but why not use this as a starting point for keeping all nuclear weapons separated from delivery vehicles to prevent any possibility of accidental launch. Perhaps in the minds of the members of the Tokyo Forum, this would go too far for “serious policymakers.”

Rather than opposing Ballistic Missile Defenses, which seem to offer only the false promise of security and to have the potential to reignite the development of offensive nuclear capabilities, the Report asks only that “all states contemplating the deployment of advanced missile defences to proceed with caution….”

The Tokyo Forum offers too little, too late to meet the dangers of our nuclear-armed world. While the Report is not a complete disgrace, it does little if anything to build upon and advance the Report of the Canberra Commission to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons issued three years earlier. I find the Report a serious disappointment when measured against the calls of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The people of Japan, even more than the people of most countries of the world, strongly support rapid action to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. The government of Japan, on the other hand, has been content to crawl under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The Tokyo Forum has aligned itself much more closely with the policies of the U.S. and Japanese governments than with the people of Japan, and particularly those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is often what happens when aspiring “serious policymakers” speak to those in power.

The people of Japan are far ahead of their government and far ahead of the experts in the Tokyo Forum. They should demand a far stronger and more active leadership role for their government in reducing nuclear dangers, beginning with a demand for the de-alerting of all nuclear weapons and the separation of nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles. This would be a valuable first step on the part of the nuclear weapons states toward fulfilling their obligations in Article VI of the NPT to achieve nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.

The way to proceed is with good faith negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased elimination of nuclear arsenals under strict and effective international control. There is no reason not to commence these negotiations immediately and to conclude them with a treaty by the end of next year. In this way, we could enter the 21st century with an agreed upon plan in place to abolish nuclear arms. The Tokyo Forum was timid about asking for action within a timeframe, but their timidity should not inhibit people everywhere from asking for what is right and in the best interests of humanity, now and in the future.

* David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and is the editor of Waging Peace Worldwide. He is a member of the international coordinating committee of Abolition 2000 and a member of the executive committee of the Middle Powers Initiative.