Agence France Presse
April 9, 2004 Friday 7:35 AM Eastern Time
Asian states move step closer to building trans-national highway
A decades-old dream of building Asia’s first trans-national highway
will move a step closer this month as 24 of 32 countries committed to
it will sign an agreement for a road from Japan to western Russia,
the United Nations said Friday.
The proposed Asian Highway would extend across 32 countries along
several routes, stretching through China south to Indonesia, and as
far west as Russia’s border with Finland, according to the UN
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
“This 140,000 kilometre (87,000 mile) highway will contribute
tremendously to regional economic integration,” UNESCAP executive
secretary Kim Hak-Su told reporters ahead of the official signing in
Shanghai on April 26.
“All 32 countries have agreed in principle to signing, but it will
depend on passing this agreement internally through each country, so
not everyone will be ready to sign in Shanghai,” said Kim.
The UN first conceived of an Asian trans-national route in 1959, but
was unable to implement the project because of geo-political hurdles
at the time.
“Under the Cold War period we could not think of any highway running
through China or even Russia or the Korean peninsula,” said Kim,
adding that all Cold War states, including North Korea, had now
agreed to develop the route.
The agreement in Shanghai will outline roads to be built and upgraded
and establish minimum standards for the highway routes, while an
overall budget and time-frame for completion are expected to be
announced in 2006.
“Trade is increasing quite rapidly, about 40 percent last year, and
Asian countries realise they need this infrastructure to service that
growth,” said UNESCAP poverty and development division chief Raj
The UN would encourage governments and the private sector to jointly
fund the project.
“Funding arrangements are taking place now in many different forms.
Thailand is assisting Laos and Cambodia with soft loans, India is
assisting Nepal and Bhutan and the Asian Development Bank is looking
at funding other portions of the scheme,” said Kumar.
The main route — Asian Highway 1 — is expected to start in Tokyo
and terminate in Istanbul, passing though North and South Korea,
China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Iran and Armenia along the way.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress