The Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel Projects: A Strategic Planning Model

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 11, 2010 - Pages 211-225

[W]hen a road is built it changes the course of history. When the International Peace Highway is completed, the world can be physically bound together as one. The road will make it so.

Sun Myung Moon, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen (2009)

Reverend Sun Myung Moon has advocated construction of an International Peace Highway for nearly three decades. In 1981, at the 10th International Conference for the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS), he proposed construction of “a ‘ Great Asian Highway ’ which would run through China, Korea and Japan , and eventually link the globe through a ‘ Great Free World Highway .’”[1] His call resulted in the establishment of the Japan-Korea Tunnel Research Institute and the International Highway Construction Corporation which conducted extensive private research and public relations activities during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2005 at the Inaugural Convocation of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), Rev. Moon renewed his call for an International Highway System, focusing on “a passage for transit across the Bering Strait.” This, he stated, “will allow people to travel on land from Africa's Cape of Good Hope to Santiago, Chile, and from London to New York… connecting the world as a single community.”[2] His renewed call resulted in the creation of the Foundation for Peace and Unification (FPU, est. 2008), chartered by South Korea ’s Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs for the purpose of pursuing the Korea-Japan and the Bering Strait tunnel projects.

Despite ongoing research and promotional activities, there have been no formal discussions, much less compacts or treaties, among participating nations and no expression of interest on the part of public or private investors. In order to move these projects beyond conceptualization and exploratory research to implementation, this article takes the position that strategic planning and strategic thinking will be essential. As a first step, the article introduces a strategic planning model consisting of three components: (1) an environmental scan, (2) strategic objectives, and (3) tactical initiatives.

The article’s three sections build upon this model. The first surveys the world’s land-based transportation infrastructure, as well as gaps in the system, and finds the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects to be vital missing links. The second makes the case that the projects’ implemen­tation will contribute to a more balanced global energy and resource economy; the reduction of North American trade and competitive disadvan­tages; and enhanced cohesion and competitiveness in Northeast Asia. The third section suggests ways to engage political and business constituencies. It advocates a flexible, incremental approach, emphasizing mutual adjustments, coordination of various stakeholders, and utilization of public-private-partnerships (PPPs). A conclusion summarizes the study’s key findings.


Environmental Scan

There are two ways to conceptualize the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects. The first is to emphasize their uniqueness. The Bering Strait Tunnel will connect Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka, Russia, and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, traversing the two Diomede Islands, a distance of 85 km (53 mi). The Korea-Japan Tunnel will also traverse two islands (Tsushima and Iki), connecting either Koje Island or Pusan, Korea to Karatsu, Japan, a distance of 209 to 230 km (130 to 143 mi) with an undersea length of 145 km (91 mi). Either of these distances are considerably longer than the world’s longest undersea tunnels: the Seikan Tunnel, a 53.85 km (33.46 mi) railway tunnel connecting the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan and the Channel Tunnel, a 50.5-km (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel linking the United Kingdom and northern France. Apart from length, the Bering Strait Tunnel would be the world’s first inter-hemispheric tunnel and provide the only possible tunnel linkage between Asia and the Americas . Its geographical location also would present unprecedented physical challenges. Clearly, there is a factual basis for asserting that both projects are unique, even unpreced­ented. However, government and business interests are strongly risk-aversive, seeking to minimize risk and maximize reward. Therefore, an emphasis on the projects’ uniqueness is likely to be counterproductive.

The second way to conceptualize the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects is to view them less as unique undertakings than as missing links in an emerging global transportation network. From this perspective, it will be argued that,

  1. The Bering Strait Tunnel is the most important missing link in the world’s global transportation infrastructure. According to a promi­nent railway consultant, “The largest and most significant gap” in the global rail map, “is between North America and Asia, the world’s richest consuming market on the one hand, and its largest, most resource rich, and most populous landmass on the other.”[3] By con­necting the emerging Eurasian and North American rail systems, the Bering Strait Tunnel would dramatically reduce freight time, access exceptional natural resources in Alaska and Eastern Siberia, and pro­vide the infrastructure for a more balanced global energy economy.
  2. The Korea-Japan Tunnel is the most vital missing link in the world’s regional transportation infrastructure. From a regional perspective, “North-east Asia, including Korea, China and Japan is one of the fastest growing economies in the world… represents almost a quarter of the world’s GNP… and is widely expected to be one of the three leading economic blocs in the 21st century along with the European Union and North America.” A tunnel project linking Korea and Japan would establish the basis for an ambitious BESETO (Beijing–Seoul–Tokyo) Highway Plan connecting six megacities ( Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo ), each with a population of more than 10 million.[4] Connecting Japan to the Asian continent would parallel or even exceed the achievement of Europe at the opposite end of the Eurasian continent.

These projects would be impossible to conceive, much less implement, without taking into account the globalization of economy, politics and culture. These processes are significant. However, the emergence of global transportation links, upon which the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects are based, is revolutionary. Simply put, the world’s transportation infrastructure will shape the significant geopolitical realignments of the 21st century.

There has been a tremendous acceleration of global transportation infrastructure, particularly land-based infrastructure (rail, roads, tunnels, bridges), since the end of the Cold War. This has been especially impressive in Eurasia. In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan linked their east-west national railways to those of the People’s Republic of China, suddenly connecting China to Central Asia. In 1996, Turkmenistan connected its railway to the network of the Iranian Islamic Republic Railways, extending the east-west line to the Persian Gulf, with links to the Caucasus and Turkey . This, in effect, gave birth to a New Silk Road.[5] More recently, Russian Railways RZD partnered with Deutsche Bahn Corporation and the Chinese Railways to open a northern tier of trans-Eurasian rail service, and in September 2008 conducted its first transport of industrial and consumer goods from Xiangtang, China, arriving on schedule in Hamburg, Germany .[6]

Additional transportation projects have been undertaken or proposed throughout Eurasia, many of them mega-projects. China, as part of its “7 longitudinal 7 latitudinal” expressway plan, proposed a 150 km Taiwan Strait Tunnel project in 2004 and has participated in discussions about a Korea-China Undersea Tunnel traversing the Yellow Sea.[7] Russia Railways is working on a rail link from Pravaya Lena, south of Yakutsk to Uelen on the Bering Strait, a 3,500 km stretch. It also is discussing construction of a 10 km Sakhalin Island Tunnel under the Strait of Tartary from the Russian mainland and an estimated $50 billion Sakhalin-Hokkaidō Tunnel, connecting Russia and Japan.

The “Bridge of the Horns,” linking Djibouti (Africa) and Yemen across the Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait at the southern extremity of the Red Sea, is an especially ambitious project expected to be completed in 2020. Its length will be 18.5 km with the world’s longest suspension span to clear submarine and surface vessels. Its estimated cost of $200 billion does not include construc­tion of twin Al Noor cities to be built on either side of the span by the Saudi Bin Laden Group. Turkey is constructing Mamaray, an undersea rail tunnel linking the European and Asian sections of Istanbul, running under the Bosphorus strait. When completed in 2012, it will be the world's deepest undersea immersed tube tunnel.

In the European sector, Switzerland is currently boring the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) as part of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) project. With a planned length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 153.5 km (95.4 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, it will be the longest of all railway and road tunnels in the world. These initiatives provide a broader context for consideration of the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects.

Construction of transportation infrastructure has been less impressive in North America, in part due to highway, rail, bridge and tunnel networks already in place. However, these systems are aging, and there is a significant gap in North American land-based transportation between resource-rich regions to the north and population centers in the south. The Rails to Resources Act of 2000 created a U.S.-Canada Commission to study connecting the Alaskan and Canadian railways but had limited success due to a lack of Canadian response. However, Canada launched an Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APGCI) in 2006 and committed $591 million to transportation infrastructure developments and upgrades. In 2007, the Canadian government increased its investment in APGCI to $1 billion and committed $2.1 billion to a national fund for infrastructure for gateways and border crossings. Recent U.S. interest has focused on constructing a rail connection alongside a proposed $20-30 billion Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. However, gas line builders have resisted because rail construction would require additional environmental impact studies and added delays in launching the project.

Cargo carried annually by U.S. railroads increased from 427 billion ton-miles in 1930 to 750 billion ton-miles in 1975 and then doubled to 1.5 trillion ton-miles in 2005. Railroads account for over 40 percent of all cargo shipped in the U.S. , more than any other mode of transportation. In addition, the transport of containers by a combination of rail and truck has tripled in the last 25 years. Nevertheless, the U.S. has significantly underinvested in rail capacity for the last 50 years. This underinvestment provides a different context for considering the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects.


Strategic Objectives

This section lays out three major strategic objectives for the Bering Strait/Korea-Japan Tunnel projects which flow from the above-discussed environmental scan. The first of these derives from exploding trade along the New Silk Road corridor, particularly in energy resources, between the oil-rich Gulf States and Asia. Implementation of the Bering Strait Tunnel project combined with development of Siberian oil fields will lead to a more bal­anced global energy and resource economy. However, failure to implement the project will perpetuate fierce competition for Middle East oil and Central Asian natural gas. The second objective stems from overwhelmed U.S. West Coast seaports and the gap in the North American rail system between Alaska and the “Lower 48” states. Implementation of the Bering Strait Tunnel project will relieve congestion in U.S. ports and provide for a reduc­tion of North American trade and competitive disadvantages. Failure to im­ple­ment the project will perpetuate U.S. port congestion and oil dependence. The third objective derives from the lack of inner cohesion and poorly developed interregional transport links in Northeast Asia. Implementation of the Korea-Japan Tunnel project will enhance the cohesion and competiveness of Northeast Asia. Failure to do so will perpetuate polarization and risk eco­nomic isolation. The following sections develop each of these objectives.

1. A More Balanced Global Energy and Resource Economy

Trade along the New Silk Road corridor, particularly between the oil-rich Gulf States and Asia (chiefly China and Japan but increasingly India ) has been exploding for a decade or more. From 1995-2005, trade between the two regions increased four-fold and continues expanding at a 30 percent annual rate. In 2007, Asia accounted for 55 percent of the Gulf States’ trade, and projections are that Gulf States will double their investment in Asia by 2020. China now imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the U.S., and by 2025, forecasts show China will import three times as much oil from the Persian Gulf as the United States .[8]

This changing geo-economic pattern has important ramifications for the U.S. and to a lesser extent Korea and Japan . U.S. Cold War energy policy focused on maritime oil transportation and supply from Persian Gulf states. That policy shifted to a “double advocacy” of continued reliance on Middle Eastern oil and diversification during the Clinton and Bush administrations. In the face of New Silk Road trade patterns and continuing political instabil­ity in the Middle East, it is likely that the U.S. will shift its national energy policy further toward diversification. Given the gradual decline of North Slope production in Alaska, resistance to offshore or inland drilling in the U.S., fierce competition over new finds in Central Asia and political uncer­tainty over access to Venezuelan oil, this can only mean development and increased utilization of Eastern Siberian oil fields.

This shift would potentially afford the U.S. several future benefits. First and foremost, it could extricate the U.S. from security responsibility in the Middle East. It cannot be denied that U.S. interventionism in the region has been driven in large measure by the desire to protect the flow of oil. In effect, the U.S. would offload Middle East energy security concerns to China and India . According to one U.S. source,

Security in the Persian Gulf is now as important to Beijing and New Delhi as it is to Washington. China will no longer be content to perch under America's security umbrella, and the Indian navy now more assertively patrols the Arabian Sea. What's more, China and India have far more influence with Iran than we do—and less tolerance for a disruptive war.[9]

Elimination of primary Middle East security responsibility would afford the U.S. more than enough savings to fund development of Siberian oil fields, the Bering Strait Tunnel and rail links on either side. A second benefit of increased utilization of Eastern Siberian oil fields would be the further solidification of U.S.-Russian relations. The U.S. would effectively remove itself from fierce competition over pipelines extending west from new oil and gas finds in Central Asia and focus on Eastern Siberia where “US-Russian cooperation is a given.”[10] A third benefit would be enhanced energy security for U.S. allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, who otherwise might face the prospect of being squeezed out in the competition for Middle East and Central Asian oil by China and India, emerging and oil-hungry Asian giants. Spurs to Korea and Japan from Siberian oil fields could protect against this eventuality. Longer term, one can envision a balanced global energy economy with the Middle East providing for Europe’s energy needs, Central Asia providing for India and China, and Siberia providing for North America, Korea, and Japan rather than the present struggle of all-against-all.[11] The key to this, of course, is implementation of the Bering Strait link.

2. Reduction of North American Trade and Competitive Disadvantages

Overwhelmed West Coast seaports and the gap in the North American rail system between Alaska and the Lower 48 have important ramifications for the Bering Tunnel project. A recent report of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials termed “congestion” in the U.S. transportation system a “new trade barrier” which “increases travel times… disrupts tightly planned supply chains, and… raises the costs of doing busi­ness with America.” It noted, “ America ’s water ports face a tsunami of foreign trade which is overwhelming their capacity” and that foreign trade “will nearly triple from the equivalent of 13 percent of GDP in 1990 to 35 percent by 2020.”[12] Although not included among the report’s recommen­da­tions, “the hauling of intermodal containers by rail through the Bering Strait” could reduce port traffic on the West Coast of North America by “as many as 5 to 7 million containers per year… as much as 10 percent of the total… traf­fic flows between Asia and North America.” Diversion of container traffic would also reduce air pollution emissions from port complexes such Los Angeles-Long Beach, which reportedly contributes as much as 25 to 30% of total emissions in the Los Angeles basin.[13]

The gap in the North American rail system between Alaska and the “Lower 48” is a second liability. It not only hinders forward movement on the Bering Strait Tunnel project but also limits access to Alaskan natural resources. These include what has been described as the “single largest and highest-quality coal deposit in the world, an almost unfathomable four trillion tons, containing the energy equivalent of 22,000 years of North Slope oil production at the rate of 1.5 million barrels per day.”[14] The lack of a rail link also limits access to valuable timber, water and mineral resources. It is puzzling why this gap persists. Both the Alaska Railroad and Canadian National Railroad are profitable enterprises. In addition, freight railroads will see an 88% increase in demand over the next quarter century according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[15] Closing the only remaining gap in the North American railway system makes strategic sense whether or not it extends further north to the Bering Strait. However, it is likely that connecting the North American system would generate the synergy required to link North America and Asia via the Bering Strait Tunnel project.

Failure to complete these projects will have serious ramifications. In ad­dition to rail transport, the U.S. has not invested significantly in developing new oil production. The U.S. , according to one commentator, “has a dated, ghost-of-glories past petroleum infrastructure.” Its major oil companies “are wealthy but aging behemoths, hard pressed to maintain production levels… and no longer enjoying access to foreign oil fields they once commanded.” Exxon Mobil, once the largest oil company in the world, “now ranks 25th by booked oil reserves.” The top ten are all state-owned national oil companies (NOCs). The top thirteen NOCs own four-fifths of the worlds known oil reserves, and “They don’t share them cheaply.”[16] The U.S. has demonstrated a willingness to go to war to protect its energy interests. Failure to develop sufficient transport infrastructure to secure Alaskan and Siberian resources could threaten global peace, given continued U.S. military dominance.

3. Enhanced Cohesion and Competitiveness in Northeast Asia

In an important article, Jaewan Hur notes that despite Northeast Asia’s economic vitality, “the degree of internal cohesion among these countries is relatively low compared to other economic blocs, partly because of poor interregional transport links.” He notes that “Trade-oriented industrialization has been the basic growth strategy” of Korea as well as Japan and that construction of a fixed transport link between the two countries will be necessary to keep their economies growing in the future. He also makes the case that a Korea-Japan undersea tunnel will contribute to a more balanced regional development within Korea “by revitalizing Pusan ’s economy and expanding it into a center of international trade.” This, he says, “will enhance its counter magnetic role against the Capital region’s dominance.” He argues similarly that the tunnel will revitalize the traditionally less-developed South­west region of Kyushu against the dominance of Japan ’s Pacific Belt. He describes these imbalances as “the most serious interregional problem” in both countries. Apart from economics, Hur states that construction of the Korea-Japan Tunnel could serve as “an important international political symbol” for the “future of the North-east Asian Community… accelerating mutual co-operation within the area.”[17]

An exceedingly important benefit of the Korea-Japan Tunnel project is its potential for integrating North Korea into the Northeast Asia community. Many speculate that North Korea ’s nuclear posturing has as much to do with economic payoffs as anything else. Earlier “Sunshine Policy” initiatives, par­ticularly the Kaesong Industrial Park, demonstrated that North Korea could be a willing, if temperamental partner. Considering the vast expen­diture of military, economic and political capital on the “ Korea problem,” this dimen­sion of the tunnel project proposal cannot be minimized.

Failure to move forward with this link will have serious ramifications, particularly for the two Koreas . Despite their potential as a logistical and distribution hub, the Koreas run the risk of being bypassed if they don’t proceed aggressively to solidify their positions. South Korean planners need to take seriously the Russian Federation’s stated intention of constructing tunnels between its mainland and Sakhalin Island and between Sakhalin Island and Hokkaidō, Japan (a considerably shorter distance that the Korea-Japan Tunnel). This would threaten not only the Korea-Japan Tunnel project but also Korea ’s strategic prominence as a gateway to the mainland. North Korea also needs to be wary of discussions between China and South Korea about a South Korea-China Undersea Tunnel traversing the Yellow Sea, which would bypass the North.


Tactical Initiatives

There has been no shortage of visionary leaders calling for a link across the Bering Strait.[18] In 1905 Tsar Nicholas II approved a planned tunnel, and a New Jersey corporation, the Trans-Alaska-Siberian Railway Company, raised $6 million (USD) toward the project before it was abandoned. During WW II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a preliminary survey for a supply route to Soviet troops which, had it been pursued, would have included a Bering Strait crossing. In recent years, private organizations and interests have pursued the project and some government representatives, notably Vladimir Putin, have expressed interest.[19]

There also have been a number of proposals for a Korea-Japan undersea tunnel. Japan developed an initial concept, referred to as the Greater East Asia Railroad, in the late 1930s. During WW II, Japan took concrete steps toward its planned rail network in Asia with construction of several bridges and completion of a 3.6 km undersea rail tunnel joining the Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu. The idea re-surfaced during the post-war years, particularly during the 1980s.[20] As with the Bering Strait tunnel, private organizations promoted the project and elected officials, including leaders of both governments, voiced support.[21]

However, neither project has been launched nor does there appear to be the prospect for a launch in the immediate future. One reason for this is that project advocates have not been able to penetrate significantly beyond their respective circles-of-interest. Meetings on the projects have typically involved supporters speaking to other supporters, sometimes visionaries speaking to other visionaries. In order to make significant progress, proponents need to break out of these circles-of-interest to engage political and business constituencies whose orientations are fundamentally pragmatic and whose decision-making is driven by personal, corporate and/or national interests. This is not a simple process. In a recent Washington Times article on the Korea-Japan Tunnel, Daizo Nozawa and Kim Ki Chun wrote,

For the project to proceed, private discussions and expressions of support must move to the next level of formal and official discussions between both countries’ governments. Eventually, the two countries need to conclude a diplomatic accord, similar to the Treaty of Canterbury signed by Britain and France in 1986, which would outline the conditions under which the tunnel project would proceed.[22]

Craig Burroughs, a director of the Inter-hemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Rail Group, makes the same point with respect to the Bering Strait project, highlighting the need for an “international compact” or “treaty” among the participating nations.”[23] The remainder of this section will consider a range of approaches and issues relevant to securing requisite political and financial support.

The Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects possess at least one important political asset. They have attained a significant amount of public visibility. Supporters have succeeded in publicizing the projects as evidenced by coverage in leading media outlets and references to the projects by heads of state in Russia, Korea and Japan . In the U.S. , The Discovery Channel, a major cable outlet, has featured the Bering Strait Crossing twice in features on “Extreme Engineering.” Having reached a mass audience, project support­ers may have gone as far as they need to go with publicity and can now direct their resources toward the political process. The only exception to this would be the 2012 Expo (World’s Fair) to be held in Yeosu, Korea . For this event, it is advisable that advocates for both projects prepare substantial displays.

In directing their resources toward the political process, project supporters should seriously consider working with political consultants, paid or pro-bono lobbyists, and even political action committees (PACs). It is critical that project proponents develop a political agenda and open up chan­nels of communication with relevant decision-makers or their aides. It also will be important to establish relationships with public interest and profess­sional associations, particularly in the sectors of energy and transportation. In all of this, it is crucial that supporters of the projects adopt a flexible, incre­mental approach, emphasizing mutual adjustments and coordination of vari­ous stakeholders rather than presenting pre-formulated plans developed in isolation from the political process. In fact, research shows that “centralized decision making early in the life of large-scale projects” correlates with “subsequent inter-organizational conflict” while “partnering” is “a key factor in the effective management of such processes.”[24]

However, even if project proponents proceed in politically astute ways, approvals still may not be forthcoming. In fact, it may take a crisis for the projects to move forward. This has been the case for numerous past projects of significant scope. The Alaska Pipeline was undertaken in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s. The U.S. Transcontinental Railroad was launched during the American Civil War, the Panama Canal amid a revolution in Columbia , and the English Channel Tunnel at the height of the Cold War. It may be that stability is not conducive to mega-projects. The 21st century already has witnessed one spike in oil prices. A second spike, sending prices to $200 a barrel, could be decisive in mobilizing the political will to implement the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects.

Financial considerations are at least as important as, or more important than political accords. For much of the 20th century, “governments in all countries… assumed responsibility for financing and operating transport in­frastructure.” However, this began to change toward the end of the century in the face of public debt, budgetary shortfalls and recognition that “efficien­cy gains” could be realized by outsourcing costs, construction and operation­al functions to the private sector. This is not without precedent. “In the 19th century, the railway infrastructure in Europe was financed and operated by the private sector.”[25] This also was the case for the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad which was financed, built and managed entirely by private companies with the incentive of generous government land grants. Private concerns also have an incentive to complete projects sooner in order to realize profits. The outstanding contemporary example of public-private part­nership (PPP) is the Channel Tunnel, a “build-own-operate-transfer” (BOOT) project in which the British and French governments devolved entire responsibility for financing, construction and commercial management to Eurotunnel, a consortium of ten construction companies and five banks.

The “Seoul Declaration on Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure Development in Asia and the Pacific” (2007) advocated extension of this model into the Asian sector. It was adopted recently by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) as a basis for developing online courses, model concession contracts, and various PPP capacity-building programs. These programs are less relevant for com­mand economies like China which allocated $182 billion to railway invest­ment for 2006-2010 and $292 billion to 2020 [26] or to Middle East Gulf states which are flush with cash. However, PPPs are being pursued increasingly for large-scale infrastructure projects. Supporters of the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects need to understand and utilize these programs.

In the end, creative financing will not work if the projects, themselves, are not deemed to be financially viable or technically feasible. As suggested, crises could intervene. However, in general, investors need to determine a workable formula of government concessions, risk-assessment, and expected profit in order to proceed. One problem with the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects is that cost-estimates are not yet solid. Estimates for the Bering Strait Tunnel project range from $65 to $200 billion depending, in part, on how the railway connectors on the Russian, U.S. and Canadian sides are calculated. Estimates for the Korea-Japan Tunnel range from $77 to $157 billion. Profit expectations also vary. Inter-hemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad Group representatives note that the shortest direct distance from Beijing to Chicago is directly through the Bering Strait and that the elimination of port handling, access to resources en route, concessions from governments, and the opportunity to transport 100 million tons of cargo annually will provide sufficient incentives to investors.[27] Korean and Japan­ese researchers have projected a 30 percent savings per container on freight shipped through the Korea-Japan Tunnel and concluded that job creation along with the project’s ability to revive construction industries and Korea’s lagging tourism outside Seoul will make the project viable.[28]

Still, there has not been anything developed toward the implementation of either project that remotely resembles a business plan, much less the 11-volume proposal and substantial environmental impact statement submitted by Eurotunnel to the British and French governments. Supporters of the Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnel projects will need to attain this level of articulation in order to have a reasonable expectation of successful imple­mentation. The utilization of strategic planning processes and strategic thinking will be immensely helpful in this process.



To summarize this study’s key findings:

  1. The Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnels are vital missing links in an emerging global transportation network;
  2. The world’s transportation infrastructure will shape the significant geopolitical alignments of the 21st century;
  3. The Bering Strait and Korea-Japan Tunnels will contribute to a more balanced global energy and resource economy; the reduction of North American trade and competitive disadvantages; and enhanced cohesion and competitiveness in Northeast Asia;
  4. Supporters have attained a significant amount of public visibility for the projects but must pursue a variety of tactical initiatives to engage political and business constituencies;
  5. Strategic planning processes and strategic thinking will be immensely helpful in this process.



[1] Sun Myung Moon, “Founder’s Address,” Tenth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, Seoul, Korea , November 9-13, 1981.

[2] Sun Myung Moon, God’s Ideal Family: the Model for World Peace,” Inaugural Convo­cation of the Universal Peace Federation, New York, New York , September 12, 2005.

[3] Craig Burroughs, “The Fast Track to World Peace,” World & I: Innovative Approaches to World Peace, March/April 2006, 52.

[4] Jaewan Hur, “The Korea-Japan Underwater Tunnel project: Its Differences and Simi­lar­ities to the Channel Tunnel,” Regional Studies (June 1997): 431.

[5] See Shigeru Otsuka, “ Central Asia’s Rail Network and the Eurasian Land Bridge,” Japan Railway & Transport Review 28 (September 2001): 42-49.

[6] See

[7] Discussed at a seminar hosted by the Gyeonggi Research Institutue, May 14, 2008. See

[8] See Stephen Glain, “The New Silk Road,” Forbes Magazine, June 2, 2008; Stanley Reed, Dexter Roberts and Nandini Lakshaman, “The New Silk Road,” Business Week, November 6, 2008; Chris Mayer, “Cash in on the New Silk Road,” Contrarian Profits, October 28, 2008; and Afshin Molavi, “New Silk Road.” Washington Post, April 9, 2007, A13.

[9] Molavi, “New Silk Road,” A13.

[10] Alice-Catherine Carls, “ Central Asia: The New Silk Road’s Gordian Knot?” World History Connected,

[11] Africa and South America have sufficient oil reserves to provide for themselves. Oceania would still require maritime supply.

[12] American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Transportation—Invest in Our Future: America’s Freight Challenge, AASHTO, May 2007.

[13] Hal Cooper, “The Worldwide Strategic Importance of the Intercontinental Rail Corridor Connections Between the Eurasian and North American Land Bridges,” Paper presented at Schiller Institute Conference, Kiedrich, Germany, September 15-16, 2007,

[14] Burroughs, “The Fast Track to World Peace,” 53.

[15] Jay Palmer, “How to Climb aboard the Money Train,” Barron’s, August 6, 2008.

[16] See Kevin Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Bad Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (NY: Penguin, 2009), 126.

[17] Hur, “The Korean-Japan Underwater Tunnel Project,” 431-32.

[18] The more prominent of these include William Seward (1867), William Gilpin (1890), Joseph Strauss (1892), T.L. Lin (1968), George Koumal (1986), Lyndon LaRouche (1997) and Sun Myung Moon (2005).

[19] Private organizations pursuing the project include the Inter-hemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad group (IBSTRG), the Shiller Institute, the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) as previously noted, as well as TKM-World Link and PK International.

[20] Sun Myung Moon’s International Highway proposal (1981) resulted in the establishment of the Japan-Korea Tunnel Research Institute and the International Highway Construction Corporation, which have conducted the most extensive private research and public relations activities on behalf of the tunnel proposal.

[21] These included South Korean Presidents Roh Tae-woo, Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Ministers Yoshiro Mori, Junichiro Moizumi and Yasuo Fukuda. See Hiroshi Osedo, “ Japan Plans 200 km Bridge, Undersea Tunnel Link to South Korea ,” Courier Mail, March 18, 2008.

[22] Daizo Nozawa and Kim Ki Chun, “Tunnel to Link Korea and Japan ?” Washington Times, April 13, 2009.

[23] Burroughs, “The Fast Track to World Peace,” 60-61.

[24] Audley Genus, “Managing Large-Scale Technology and Inter-Organizational Relations: The Case of the Channel Tunnel,” Research Policy 26:2 (May 1997): 169-89.

[25] Peter Nijkamp and Sytze Rienstra, “Private Sector Involvement in Financing and Operat­ing Transport Infrastructure,” The Annals of Regional Science 29:2 (June 1995): 235.

[26] “Rail transport in the People’s Republic of China ,” Wikipedia,'s_Republic_of_China

[27] Burroughs, “The Fast Track to World Peace,” 59-60.

[28] These findings are disputed. See “Experts Argue over Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel,” Choson Ilbo, May 11, 2007 and “Korea-Japan Tunnel Finally in Sight,” Choson Ilbo, February 21, 2009.