The Japanese government on Tuesday warned domestic companies about contracting North Korean IT workers posing as Japanese nationals to earn cash, as it is suspected they are using the proceeds in such cases to fund Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development programs.

Individuals and companies found to be offering work to such people could be in violation of domestic laws, including the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, as U.N. sanctions demand that member states ensure Pyongyang's access to financial resources for developing weapons of mass destruction is thwarted, the government said in a warning statement.

The statement, jointly released by the National Police Agency, Foreign Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, follows similar guidance issued by the United States and South Korea in October.

"Cases (of North Korean workers posing as Japanese nationals) have also been confirmed in Japan and the threat is increasing," said a senior official of the agency.

According to the statement, North Korean tech workers disguise their identities or use a relative already residing in Japan to register with websites that connect freelance IT workers with tech companies.

Many of the North Korean nationals who take on the contracted work carry out their tasks and earn their wages while based in China or Russia. They tend to refrain from taking part in video conferences, frequently switch bank accounts to receive compensation and speak unnatural Japanese, according to the statement.

On March 6, police in Japan arrested the president of an IT company in Hiroshima Prefecture on suspicion of illicitly receiving unemployment benefits and are looking into the possibility that the president was offering work to a North Korean national.

In 2022, a North Korean tech worker using the name of an acquaintance was found to be taking on work offered by the Hyogo prefectural government to fix a smartphone app that provides disaster-related information, police said.

The statement cited a U.N. expert panel report in March that found North Korea was dispatching IT workers overseas. The report said that workers were using false identities to win contracts so that they could generate revenue to finance North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development programs.

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