North Korea May Be Militarising Dolphins, Says United States Naval Institute

by : Julia Banim on : 13 Nov 2020 13:12
North KoreaPA Images/Pixabay

In news that will spark fears you didn’t even know you had, the United States Naval Institute (USNI) has found evidence to suggest that North Korea may be militarising dolphins.

Satellite images obtained by USNI show animal pens floating about in brown, unclear waters. The pens are located between a shipyard and a coal loading dock, with warships situated close by. A second base further on up the river appears to be a dolphin breeding facility.


Image intelligence suggests that North Korea’s marine mammal program dates could well date back to at least October 2015, with signs first noted at the site of a major naval display in the port city of Nampo on the Hermit Kingdom’s west coast.

It’s believed this program could be part of Kim Jong Un’s ongoing modernisation of North Korea’s navy, with the secretive nation having significantly upgraded its military capabilities in recent times.

As reported by the Council on Foreign Relations last month, it’s estimated that North Korea has as many as 60 nuclear weapons and that it has already successfully tested missiles that are capable of striking the US with a nuclear warhead.


As per the USNI:

While the U.S. Navy pioneered the training of dolphins and other marine mammals for naval purposes and has a program based in San Diego, it’s not a capability most navies can afford. To date, only the Russian Navy, with bases in the Arctic and Black Sea, has followed suit.

Similarities with marine mammal pens that are already being used by the US and Russian navies would suggest the pens spotted in North Korean are indeed the right size for keeping dolphins.

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As noted by the USNI, marine mammals can be trained to find and collect objects from the seabed, including mines or expended training torpedoes. This same skill-set can be utilised to inspect objects at the bottom of the seas, such as cables and sonar arrays.

Dolphins can also work to defend naval bases against saboteurs and, with training, can detect enemy divers, marking them out for investigation and neutralisation.

Marine mammals far outrank human swimmers in terms of speed and agility, and are also able to ‘see’ things even when submerged in dark or murky waters.


The USNI has also remarked that the pens could well make up some sort of fish farm, with North Korea having placed increased emphasis on this sector over the past few years, some of which are run by military forces.

However, a survey of fish farms would suggest that the pens in question are indeed different to other known fish farm sites in the country.

North Korea is also known to train porpoises for a dolphinarium in the capital city of Pyongyang, and, due to an overlap between military and civilian apparatus, it might be that the navy also benefits from the program.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Animals, Dolphins, Kim Jong-un, military, North Korea, Now


USNI and 1 other
  1. USNI

    New Evidence Suggests North Korea has a Naval Marine Mammal Program

  2. Council on Foreign Relations

    North Korea’s Military Capabilities