On 11 August 2017, the disreputable web site Neon Nettle posted a story reporting that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin made remarks indicating that the United States was threatening war with North Korea not over nuclear weapons, but because of hopes of exploiting “trillions” of dollars worth in minerals supposedly untapped in the normally isolated, autocratic nation.
Neon Nettle attributes the following remarks to the Russian president:
[North Korea] don’t have any nuclear weapons. This is a lie being forced on the people by the corporate-owned Western media.
They know they can easily provoke the North Koreans and they will react, but the story that they are a threat is false. I will tell you the facts about North Korea: They don’t have nuclear bombs. They don’t have Western-controlled banks. They don’t depend on the US dollar. What they do have is a land full of wealth in unmined minerals.
We could find no evidence that Putin made these remarks — the comment is not quoted in any publication outside of Neon Nettle, a web site that propagates and pushes conspiracy theories and fake news. For example, Neon Nettle was one of the many disreputable web sites that pushed the thoroughly debunked PizzaGate conspiracy theory, which also held that Hillary Clinton was involved with a pedophile ring being run out of a New York pizza parlor. They also reported (again falsely) that Soundgarden and Linkin Park singers Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, respectively, had been murdered because they were about to reveal a pedophile ring. (Both men committed suicide, and there has been absolutely no evidence that they were aware of or otherwise involved in a pedophile ring.)
We found no evidence that Putin made these remarks, although Neon Nettle does accurately cite the online business magazine Quartz, which did report that North Korea may be sitting on mineral deposits worth vast sums of money:
Estimates as to the value of the nation’s mineral resources have varied greatly over the years, made difficult by secrecy and lack of access. North Korea itself has made what are likely exaggerated claims about them. According to one estimate from a South Korean state-owned mining company, they’re worth over $6 trillion. Another from a South Korean research institute puts the amount closer to $10 trillion.
As to the other part of the claim that North Korea “doesn’t have any nuclear weapons”, it is apparently false, because Pyongyang has been testing them.