http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentS...y&c=StoryFT&cid=1078381535832&p=1012571727088 North Korea warms to Kerry presidency bid By Andrew Ward in Seoul and James Harding in Washington Published: March 4 2004 20:24 | Last Updated: March 4 2004 20:24 North Korea's state-controlled media are well known for reverential reporting about Kim Jong-il, the country's dictatorial leader. But the Dear Leader is not the only one getting deferential treatment from the communist state's propaganda machine: John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic candidate, is also getting good play in Pyongyang. In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the official mouthpiece of Mr Kim's communist regime. The apparent enthusiasm for Mr Kerry may reflect little more than a "better the devil you don't know" mentality among the North Korean apparatchiks. Rather than dealing with President George W. Bush and hawkish officials in his administration, Pyongyang seems to hope victory for the Democratic candidate on November 2 would lead to a softening in US policy towards the country's nuclear weapons programme. But both Mr Kerry and Mr Bush are committed to North Korean disarmament. Mr Kerry, however, would renew bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, while Mr Bush has sought to manage the conversation with North Korea through multilateral talks. Mr Kerry has also been more forthright about setting out the economic rewards for North Korea if it disarms. The Bush administration appears in no hurry to tackle the North Korea issue before the election, aware that a US compromise with Pyongyang would represent an embarrassing climbdown, while confrontation would risk a bloody - and electorally disastrous - war. If North Korea is hoping that a Democratic victory would herald a return to Bill Clinton's policy of engagement with Pyongyang, then Gordon Flake, head of the Mansfield Centre for Pacific Affairs in Washington, cautions Mr Kim against expecting too much from Mr Kerry. "It would be harder for a Democratic president to do a deal because there would be a lot of pressure on him not to be a soft touch," he says. Either way, the North Korean media is a constituency Mr Kerry could do without. Second only to the warm words Mr Kerry has enjoyed from Jane Fonda, the actress and antiwar liberal who is still a bugbear of the American right, a signal of support from the Dear Leader will delight conservative talk-show hosts and Republicans eager to paint Mr Kerry as soft on national security. A small group of Vietnam veterans has already branded Mr Kerry as "Hanoi John" - a reference to his antiwar activities in 1971 after he returned from serving in Vietnam. Mr Kerry was first introduced to North Korea's information-starved people in early February, when Radio Pyongyang reported that opinion polls indicated he was likely to defeat Mr Bush. A few days later, the station broadcast comments by Mr Kerry criticising Mr Bush for deceiving the world about Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction. Later in February, KCNA welcomed Mr Kerry's pledge to adopt a more "sincere attitude" towards North Korea if elected. "Senator Kerry, who is seeking the presidential candidacy of the Democratic Party, sharply criticised President Bush, saying it was an ill-considered act to deny direct dialogue with North Korea," said the news agency. Pyongyang's friendly attitude towards Mr Kerry contrasts with its strong anti-Bush rhetoric.