North Korea has repurposed its porpoises — for war, according to USNI sources. The hermit kingdom appears to be training dolphins as part of its naval force, according to satellite images. Credit: Handout.

New intelligence garnered from satellite imagery taken along the North Korean coastline suggests the secretive totalitarian state may be training dolphins to conduct military operations, The Independent reported.

The United States Naval Institute, which has close links with the US Navy, said satellite imagery of the secretive totalitarian state appeared to show animal pens in water off the west coast port city of Nampo.

Another potential site was recorded further up a river on the outskirts of Nampo, which may be where the dolphins are bred.

According to the intelligence, the USNI said, any such dolphin-training program would date back to 2015 as part of leader Kim Jong-un’s attempted modernization of North Korea’s navy.

The USNI cautioned the pens could be a fish farm, but that an analysis suggests their design is inconsistent with other farms recorded in the country.

If confirmed, North Korea would join the US and Russia as the only countries known to be engaged in the training of marine mammals for purposes of warfare.

The US Navy has deployed them in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, USNI said, and more recently, Russia may have deployed them to the war in Syria.

The latest project from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aims to improve military intelligence by using a range of aquatic creatures.

The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS), launched in 2018, will monitor life forms including fish, shrimp and genetically engineered plants, which are all able to use their sensory abilities to detect signals in water that could help the US track enemies, The Independent reported.

“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterise the size and type of adversary vehicles,” said program manager Dr Lori Adornato at the initiative’s launch.

Even shrimp are being recruited, in this DARPA endeavor, BBC News reported.

Snapping shrimp, found all over the world in shallow water at latitudes less than about 40 degrees, continuously snap their claws together, creating a constant sound signal that bounces back off surrounding objects.

As with conventional sonar systems, measuring the time it takes for the sound signal to return, and its strength, can reveal the size, shape and distance of underwater objects — even the quietest of vehicles.

Last year, an unusually friendly beluga whale in waters off Norway’s most northerly county sparked international headlines when it was discovered swimming in a harness. 

Experts speculated it originated from a base belonging to the Russian navy.