The International Peace Highway: Reflections on its Role for World Peace

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 11, 2010 - Pages 199-210

The construction of a bridge and tunnel complex that would connect Russia and the United States via the Bering Strait, along with the building of a tunnel complex to connect Kyushu Island in Japan with Pusan, Korea represent key components of the International Peace Highway which has been publicly advocated by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon since 1981. This paper explores compelling dimensions of this project through the optics of religion, history and international political economy.


Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Proposal for an International Peace Highway






Figure 1: Section of the map of the International Peace Highway from a booklet prepared for the 1981 ICUS

On November 10, 1981 at the Tenth International Conference for the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS) in Seoul, Korea, Reverend Moon introduced his vision for a world highway system that would require the building of a tunnel connecting Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan to Pusan, Korea . In that proposal he also called for the creation of a one mile stretch of neutral territory on either side of the proposed International Peace Highway . That perimeter would constitute neutral territory and it would allow the administration of the project to rely on international legal instruments rather than the laws or dictates of any particular nation.

The maps developed in conjunction with that 1981 proposal also depicted a con­nector be­tween Russia and the United States via the Bering Strait and a highway net­work reaching through the Ameri­cas, Asia, Europe and Africa. (Figure 1) Exca­va­tion initia­tives began to advance this proj­ect in Japan almost immedi­ately after the conference.

In his keynote address to the second meeting of the Summit Council for World Peace on February 2, 1990, Rev. Moon again spoke of the importance of this project and of the unique opportunity provided through President Gorbachev’s implementation of Glasnost. He recognized President Gorbachev’s efforts and observed, “I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to President Gorbachev for his courage and leadership in bringing about these constructive changes, enabling us to usher in this new era of cooperation.” He reiterated his support for President Gorbachev and also spoke once again of the importance of the International Peace Highway :

As you may know, in 1981 I launched an International Peace Highway project. When completed, this highway will allow a family car to be driven from Tokyo to London. I am seriously discussing the project with the governments of Japan, Korea and China, and I hope that the Soviet Union will also welcome this project. Of course, this is a lofty dream, but every great undertaking begins as a dream. Not so long ago, no one could even have dreamed of men walking on the moon, but with a vision and hard work, it became a reality. So it will be with the International Peace Highway.[1]

In 2005 Rev. Moon further elaborated on the need for a bridge/tunnel complex connecting Russia and the United States, speaking specifically on the need for a connector between Russia and the United States at the Bering Strait. He described this construction as an historical necessity, given the long history during which the physical separation between Russia and the United States had served as a source of the physical and spiritual division of humankind. He emphasized that an International Peace Highway would play a key role in the fostering of reconciliation and peace:

The United States of America, Russia, Europe, China, India, Japan, Brazil and all the nations and religions of the world should work hand in hand. With the complete success of this project, humankind will be one step closer to the Peace Kingdom on earth where there is no more division and war.[2]

In a speech delivered on February 1, 1986, Rev. Moon intimated a direct relationship between the International Peace Highway and his lifelong efforts to overcome the invisible barriers that separate humankind:

The final problem is opening the blocked spiritual gates of hell and heaven… The name of the International Peace Highway came from this. This is to break down the wall, which has been blocking us.[3]

Thus for Rev. Moon, the world highway system represents not only human­kind’s physical integration but it also furthers spiritual reconciliation and integration.

Research institutes and foundations were established as early as 1981 in Korea, Japan and the United States to explore the feasibility and development of the International Peace Highway project. Symposia have been dedicated to this theme and the project has drawn statements of support from political leaders, philan­throp­ists, engineers and leaders in management and civil engineering. Exploratory excavations have already been conducted in Japan and Korea .

Reverend Moon has more than a superficial understanding of Alaska and the Bering Strait. He personally spent a significant amount of time working there in order to develop the fishing and the fish processing industries that he initiated there. Alaska has served as a laboratory where he has deployed and personally tested the many models of fishing boats that his companies have built in Korea and in the United States .

Reverend Moon has strong feelings about the way in which the former Soviet Union must develop in order to foster peace. He has stressed that the Soviet Union’s prime political and commercial partner should be the United States rather than Europe. Following a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in November 1991, he sent a message to President George H. W. Bush emphasizing that the United States needed to do everything to foster friendship and reconciliation with the former Soviet Union.[4] The proposed Bering Strait project connecting the United States and Russia would help to achieve this.


The International Peace Highway in the Context of History

Religion and the Symbolism and Significance of Highways

Roads and highways have always played an essential role in facilitating the communication of ideas and beliefs. Efficient travel from one city or from one country to another was essential for the expansion of Buddhism and Confucianism. Buddha and Confucius both traveled with their followers from one venue to another in order to teach the implicit proprieties of leader­ship and human interaction. Christianity spread quickly from the Near East to Europe because of the expansive Roman highway system that the Apostle Paul and other traveled as early missionaries. Paul, the pioneer and architect of such mission activities, found his own faith on the Road to Damascus , a highway where he came face-to-face with Jesus in a spiritual encounter. Islam was also reliant on highways for its growth and develop­ment. The trade routes of Central Asia helped in the propagation on that faith. Travel between countries allows religious ideas to be cross-fertilized and enriched by other cultures.

Highways, it would appear, can have more than utilitarian significance. In the case of Christianity and Judaism, the call for the creation of an International Peace Highway arguably resonates with certain foundational scriptures. Isaiah 35:8-10 makes specific reference to a “highway of holiness” in the last days that will coincide with the realization of the Kingdom of God :

And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.[5]

Social and Political Significance of Highways and Bridges

Highways reflect a human desire to be connected, while walls reflect another, darker human sentiment, to remain isolated and separated. Structures such as the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, the wall between Palestinians and Israel and the planned wall between Mexico and the United States reflect the fact that humankind still has a way to go before there can literally be one human family on earth.

Unlike walls, bridges and highways can heal distances and contribute to peace. For example, Canada and the United States opposed each other militarily both during the American War of Independence and during the War of 1812. In the years following the War of 1812, Americans and Canadians actively began to explore ways in which to address their differ­en­ces. One of the symbols of this process of reconciliation was the construction of a Peace Bridge between the cities of Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario ( Canada ) in the early part of the Twentieth Century. On the occasion of the opening of the Peace Bridge , an editorial in the Buffalo Post described this historical development as follows:

Let us trust that the structure that is to bring these two great Anglo-Saxon countries into closer contact with each other will serve also to increase mutual respect and appreciation and prolong indefinitely the years of peace.[6]

In a similar way the Chunnel, connecting the United Kingdom with France, marked a new level of relationship between the United Kingdom and France , two nations that had waged war on each other since the days of Joan of Arc. France and Great Britain had stood at opposite sides of the Battlefield during the Napoleonic Wars, the American War of Independence and the American Civil War. Through the Chunnel project they were finally “joined forever.” Bridges and highways serve as a clear statement that partnership and collaboration are viewed by both parties as keys to their mutual future success.

Contemporary social movements have utilized highway construction as a tool to facilitate peacebuilding. Sri Lankan Gandhi Peace Prize winner Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, founder of the Sarvodaya non-violent movement, has dedicated much of his life to helping to mitigate the dispute between Singhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka . One of his major venues for bringing opposing camps together was having them work together on the building of a road. Dr. Ariyaratne describes the outcomes of these efforts, as follows: “We built the road and the road built us.”[7]

Significance of the Bridge-Tunnel Structures in the International Peace Highway

The connecting bridge-and tunnel structure over the Bering Strait and the tunnel between Japan and Korea that are centerpieces of Rev. Moon’s International Peace Highway serve as both symbolic and tangible structures for alleviating the ill feelings that have existed between Japan and Korea and between the United States and Russia for approximately a century in both cases. Under Japanese rule, Koreans were exposed to demeaning colonial rule that included “ethnic cleansing,” slavery, torture, human trafficking and the forced participation of Korean women as sex workers for the Japanese military during Japan’s occupation of Korea .

The United State and Russia have also opposed each other beginning with American involvement in efforts to destabilize the government of Vladimir Lenin through providing support to White Russians after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The United States and the Soviet Union continued to oppose each other through proxy wars beginning with the American efforts to prevent Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung from expanding communism beyond China and North Korea following World War II. Since then, the proxy wars have continued intermittently in Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia . Arguably the recent wars in Kosovo and in South Ossetia do not bode well in that they again would appear to constitute proxy wars, not between the United States and the Soviet Union but between the United States and Mother Russia.


Value of the International Peace Highway for Peace

Strengthening International Peace

The United States Institute of Peace, the official peace research institute of the government of the United States, describes the various stages of discord and conflict that one passes through in moving from overt conflict to a state of durable or lasting peace (or vice versa) through what is referred to as the Curve of Conflict. The Curve of Conflict that was developed by Michael S. Lund[8] identifies the spectrum of warm, stable relations to volatile, violent relations that can exist amongst nations. Depending on the quality of relat­ions between states or populations different forms of diplomatic remedies are required. Lund’s categorization of the gamut of relations between Durable Peace and War serves as a useful model for examining the current relations that exist between the United States and Russia or the relations that exist, for example, between China and Japan . We can use this model to gauge the potential impact of the International Peace Highway on world peace.

Let us begin by looking at the possible flow of relations between nations from war to lasting peace by considering a chart that I have adapted from Lund (Figure 2):

Figure 2: Stages in the Curve of Conflict[9]





Unstable Peace


Stable Peace


Durable/Lasting Peace


Lund’s model describes “Durable Peace” as follows:

Durable (or Warm) Peace involves a high level of reciprocity and cooperation, and the virtual absence of self-defense measures among parties, although it may include their military alliance against a common threat. A ‘positive peace’ prevails based on shared values, goals, and institutions (e.g. democratic political systems and rule of law), economic interdependence, and a sense of international community.[10]

It can be contrasted with the definition of “Stable Peace”:

Stable (or Cold) Peace is a relationship of wary communication and limited cooperation (e.g. trade) within an overall context of basic order or national stability. Value or goal differences exist and no military cooperation is established, but disputes are generally worked out in nonviolent, more or less predictable ways. The prospect for war is low.[11]

One could certainly make the case that Stable Peace, if unattended, can lead to “Unstable Peace,”[12] as indicated in the chart above; and this may then escalate to the level of a Crisis[13] or to War. The lack of regular communication and exchange could allow for the Stable Peace that currently exists between the United States and Russia to precipitate into an Unstable Peace. What would have happened, for example, if the United States had deployed troops in Georgia in 2008 when Russia provided military assistance to South Ossetia when it again asserted independence from Georgia ? It would appear that by becoming involved military, Russia had determined that this was a matter of national interest for which they were willing to “draw a line in the sand” and fight.

Let us next consider Lund ’s categorization in terms of US-DPRK relations or Japan-DPRK relations. The nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula could lead to the Unstable Peace that we find today between North Korea and Japan or between North Korea and the United States deteriorating into the Crisis stage indicated in the Chart on page 8. North Korea ’s leaders have made it clear that they view infringement on their territory through a blockade or through the forced inspection of their ships to be an act of war.

An International Peace Highway between the United States and Russia and between Korea and Japan would facilitate communication and exchange between former enemy nations and thus help to maintain a stable peace in the case of Russia and the United States or help to prevent the unstable peace between North Korea and Japan from deteriorating into what Lund identifies as a “crisis” or even “war.”

There are numerous reasons why it would be in the interest of disputing nations to explore the building of highway that would connect them. In recent years, the value of Track II diplomacy[14] has become increasingly apparent. Track I diplomacy consists of official envoys coming together to represent the studied diplomatic positions of their respective countries. Track II diplomacy is unofficial and “off the record.” It can often be merely an exchange of private citizens. In such a case, there are far more opportunities for a “sharing of hearts” and for frank and open discussion. Highways and bridges increase the flow of people from divergent countries and create venues for exchanges of ideas.

Fostering a Shared Vision of One World

Normally a shared value system can contribute to the realization of a major project when it involves one or more countries. In the case of the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Ontario that we have already mentioned, one notes that the Buffalo Post editorial that we have cited points to a commonality based on the shared Anglo-Saxon heritage of Canada and the United States that was still manifest at the beginning of the Twentieth century. In the case of the Chunnel connecting the United Kingdom and the European mainland, it was the increasing appreciation of a shared European heritage and a shared democratic vision that could foment the desire to solidify the ties between the British Isles and the European mainland through the construction of the Chunnel.

What is the unifying vision that lies at the root of the International Peace Highway ? Rev. Moon has called upon the United States (and other nations) to go beyond its commitment to “One Nation under God,” and to join him in aspiring to what he has described as “One World under God.”[15] The emergence of the European Union and the creation of the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well as the strength­en­ing of other regional customs unions and other institutions promoting economic cooperation including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the African Union (AU) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) itself all point to a trend towards further coopera­tion within the world community of nations. The enhanced role of the United Nations and the growth of international non-governmental organi­za­tions (INGOs) in recent years also resonate with a growing proclivity, especially in the economic sector, toward international cooperation.

Specific Sociopolitical Benefits

Although the increase in trade and commerce that would result from such a highway may seem self-evident[16], it is also true that the proposed highway could have important geopolitical implications. The United States could support Russia in its efforts at modernizing its modes of governance and commerce. It could also help Russia to fulfill her role as a bridge between Asia and Europe.[17]

NAFTA Membership for Russia ?

Furthermore, if a bridge were actually built between the United States and Russia , the two nations would share a common border for the first time. Perhaps the existence of a bridge, i.e., a concrete border between Russia and the United States, could even provide the rationale for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to view Russia as a partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement. This could help to address the ill feeling perpetrated by Russia being isolated from NATO. It could contribute to the strengthening and the diversification of the Russian economy. It could also contribute to Rev. Moon’s call in 1990 for Russia to build an alliance and partnership with the United States rather than doing so with in a way that would have Western Europe as Russia ’s major partner.

Russia as a Mediator for the United States in the Middle East?

A partnership with Russia would also have important strategic implications for the United States . For example, Russia could assist the United States in establishing constructive dialogue with the Muslim world. The United States has extremely complicated relations with countries such as Iran and Syria . In 1979 at the time that supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, the United States called for an economic blockade of Iran . The Soviet Union defended Iran in the Security Council. Iran has become reliant on the Soviet Union as an ally over the years, as has Syria . Russia has a political influence on Iran and on Syria that could be very helpful in “mending bridges” and in mollifying the problems that have long existed between the United States and the Islamic world.

Korea as a Mediator between China and Japan

The building of the Tunnel system between Korea and Japan could help Japan in resolving the deep-rooted animosity that has existed between China and Japan since the conclusion of the Second World War. By demonstrating a commitment to part­nership with Korea as has not been seen in the past, it would go far to allaying China’s deep suspicions of Japan . These have been reinforced because of the fact that Korea has shared the same types of reservations toward Japan . The building of the tunnel between Japan and Korea would make a powerful statement about the need for China to reassess its relationship with Japan, just as Korea would clearly be doing through the Tunnel project. Korea could play an important leadership role in helping to facilitate this dialogue.


Role of Religious Leaders

Religious leaders can provide important guidance to political and civic leaders and also motivate the public for peaceful and constructive change. Many of the dramatic positive changes of the twentieth century happened because of bold initiatives by religious leaders. This included the movement of non-violence (Ahimsa) led by Mohandas Gandhi that liberated the Indian subcontinent after a long period of British domination. Likewise, Dr. Martin Luther King’s religious convictions led him to a path of non-violent resistance and constructive engagement which ended segregation in the United States . Religious leaders committed to non-violence also brought an end to the dictatorship of Filipino leader Ferdinand Marcos. Each of the aforementioned initiatives required not only prayer and meditation but signi­ficant financial support and civic involvement. Dr. Martin Luther King frequently traveled to the Northeast United States[18] to solicit financial support for the Civil Rights Movement. Religious leaders can stir hearts and also inspire others to generate the concrete measures and resources needed for dramatic change.

Religious leaders have at times gathered to pray for peace or to address social injustices. Could religious leaders appreciate the vision of an international highway system? Could they appreciate the appropriateness of building an inexpensive transport system that would enable the international community to reach areas of the world affected by epidemics, famine and natural disasters? Could they be inspired and inspire others by the vision of a world where former enemies become partners in building peace and prosper­ity? Why not host convocations that invite religious leaders to join together for spiritual reflection and prayer with a focus being the realization of an International Peace Highway to bind humanity together? If such convoca­tions were held regularly, in time they could perhaps inspire the world’s religions, as representatives of international civil society, to play a key role in winning support for the project from the media and from key political and economic institutions.  



In this paper we have tried to outline the symbolism behind the International Peace Highway , some historical precedents and the inherent benefits of such an initiative. It could go a long way in addressing the deep-rooted animosities between the United States and Russia and between Korea, Japan and China .

Robert F. Kennedy liked to say, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Reverend Sun Myung Moon is a man who, throughout his life, has labored and dared to dream and ask, “Why not?” His life of sacrifice allowed him to dream big dreams and, through them, strive onward for the liberation of humankind and the liberation of God.

Some day in the not too distant future Russians and Americans will shake hands and laugh in the cold Arctic air, and Japanese and Koreans will share bulgogi, sushi and kimchi at the completion of the Kyushu-Busan Tunnel. The International Peace Highway will allow all of us to feel part of one family. When such things come to pass, the world may finally learn more about the work of a still misunderstood individual who, throughout his life, dared to dream and say, “Why not?”



[1] Sun Myung Moon, “The Reunification of Korea and Cooperation between East and West,” February 2, 2009,

[2] Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Kingdom of Peace is our Family’s Eternal Home,” June 25-28, 2005,

[3] Sun Myung Moon, Cheon Seong Gyeong ( Seoul, Korea : FFWPU, 2006), 677.

[4] Based on oral accounts provided by individuals involved in facilitating these communiqués.

[5] Prophecies regarding Highways can also be found in Rev. 16:12 and Isa. 41:2.

[6] “The Bridge that Peace Built,” excerpted from a 1925 Buffalo Post editorial, from

[7] From a speech delivered at the University of Bridgeport , October 11, 2007.

[8] See USIP Certificate Course in Conflict Analysis, where the Curve of Conflict is explained,

[9] The following chart is an adaptation of a chart developed based on USIP instruments. Normally nations possessing lasting peace relations do not see said relations dissipate into an Unstable Peace and worse.

[10] USIP Certificate Course,

[11] USIP Certificate Course,

[12] USIP defines “Unstable Peace” as “a situation in which tension and suspicion among parties run high, but violence is either absent or only sporadic. A ‘negative peace’ prevails because although armed force is not deployed [or employed], the parties perceive one another as enemies and maintain deterrent military capabilities... A balance of power may discourage aggression, but crisis and war are still possible.”

[13] USIP defines “Crisis” as “tense confrontation between armed forces that are mobilized and ready to fight and may be engaged in threats and occasional low-level skirmishes but have not exerted any significant amount of force. The probability of the outbreak of war is high.”

[14] Track II diplomacy is contrasted with official government to government diplomacy and it usually involves citizen-to-citizen exchanges, especially influential citizens, on crucial matters in inter-state relations.

[15] Sun Myung Moon, “ America and God’s Will,” September 18, 1976,

[16] The Russian government in 2007 projected that a Bering Strait bridge and tunnel would result in up to 100 million tons of increased freight traffic per year.

[17] Sun Myung Moon, “True Unification and One World,” April 10 to 11 1990, World Media Conference, Moscow,

[18] Dr. King visited the University of Bridgeport as a Jacoby lecturer and he also received an honorary doctorate from the University. Bridgeport was a place that he visited often because there he received significant financial support for the civil rights movement.