North Korea is training dolphins for military use, evidence suggests

North Korea ‘is training elite dolphins to clear mines and attack enemy frogmen’ in carbon-copy of America’s Navy programme

  • North Korea is training dolphins as part of its naval force, evidence suggests
  • Satellite images show animal pens at a naval base in Nampo, on the west coast
  • The Naval Marine Mammal Program dates back to 2015, according to images
  • The US Navy pioneered the training of marine animals for military purposes

New evidence suggests that North Korea is training dolphins for military use such as clearing mines and attacking enemy frogmen, according to satellite imagery.

The country appears to be training the marine mammals as part of its naval force, experts have said.

Animal pens were spotted at a naval base in Nampo, on the west coast of the country, according to satellite images obtained by the non-profit United States Naval Institute (USNI).

The Naval Marine Mammal Program dates back to at least October 2015, according to the images. The dolphin training facility was first spotted on satellite imagery in the brown waters between a shipyard and a coal loading pier, with warships nearby.

New evidence suggests that North Korea is training dolphins for military use such as clearing mines and attacking enemy frogmen, according to satellite imagery. Above, a dolphin is being trained at the US Navy base in San Diego

North Korea appears to be training the marine mammals as part of its naval force, experts have said. Above, a bottlenose dolphin in the US Navy Marine Mammal Program, part of the MK 7 Marine Mammal System, searches for an exercise sea mine alongside marine mammal trainers

Another base further up the river on the edge of Nampo, formed in October 2016, appears to be where the dolphins are bred, according to the USNI.

‘The program is likely part of the widespread modernisation of the navy that has taken place under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,’ the report said.  

The US Navy pioneered the training of dolphins and other marine animals for naval purposes, such as identifying and picking up mines or expended training torpedoes from the sea floor. 

Marine mammals can also be used to attack enemy frogmen, otherwise known as military divers, and mark them for investigation and neutralisation.  

The US, with a program based in San Diego, have deployed dolphins and sea lions in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.  

To date, only the Russian Navy, with bases in the Arctic and Black Sea, have followed suit. Russia uses Beluga Whales, dolphins and seals in their programs.  

Comparisons to the marine mammal pens used by the US Navy and Russian Navy suggest that the North Korean pens are sized for dolphins, according to the USNI. 

There is a possibility that the enclosures spotted in the country are part of a fish farm, many of which are run by North Korea’s armed forces.

But the pens appearing on the satellite images are not consistent with other fish farms in North Korea, the report said. 

North Korea also trains dolphins for a dolphinarium in the capital, Pyongyang. The USNI suggested that because of overlap between the country’s military and civilian apparatus, the naval program in Nampo could benefit from the infrastructure.    

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