North Korea was accused of training dolphins for military purposes after similar programs were already developed in the US and Russia, as per reports. The US Naval Institute (USNI), which is a private non-profit organization stated that satellite images show a dolphin training facility at a naval base located in Nampo, which is on the west coast of the nation.

The report that appeared on the news website of the USNI, stated that the pictures of the facility date back as far as 2015 when what looked like animal pens appeared closeby to a shipyard naval unit. "But the main activity moved to a site further up the river on the edge of town. This base, possibly where the dolphins are bred, began its development in October 2016," the report stated.

The USNI said that the facilities in the pictures look a lot like the dolphin training centers developed by the Russian and US militaries. But the institute also stated that the pens can be a type of fish farm. "North Korea has placed increased emphasis on fish farming in recent years and they are cropping up all over the country. Many are run by the armed forces."

Army of Sea Animals

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the North Korean Army
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the North Korean Army Reuters

But it said the pens are different from other fish farms seen in North Korea. The use of dolphins in the military dates back to thre 1960s when the animals along with sharks and other marine animals were tested for probable use in operations. The US Navy Marine Mammal Program (NNMP) now uses dolphins and sea lions for detecting underwater mines. For many decades, the program was classified.

Other nations in the last 60 years developed similar programs. The Russian navy is also thought of using beluga whales in operations, as there were reports from Norway that one was found wearing a Russian harness and a GoPro camera sparking the speculation that the whale was a spy for the Russian Navy.

The program of Russia gained attention in 2018 after a dolphin from the Ukrainian navy captured by Russia had died. A Ukrainian official stated that the dolphins went on a hunger strike, refusing food from the Russian handlers. What North Korea is planning to do with the army of dolphins is not clear. The report of USNI stated that as well as detecting underwater explosives and inspect cables and sonar devices, dolphins can also "defend naval bases against saboteurs."

"Human swimmers cannot compete with dolphins or seals in speed, agility, and the natural ability to 'see' in dark or murky water. It's not a contest, but because they cannot identify whether the diver is a friend or foe, they would only be used to mark the target by attaching a buoy. This is also more practical for training purposes. Enemy divers can then be dealt with by grenades or nets with shark hooks," the report stated.