U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un could go down in history if he helps his people emerge from poverty and isolation.
Clinton said Thursday in Washington that leaders are judged by how they help their people create stability and prosperity.
She said she hopes the 29-year-old Kim will choose to bring the North into the 21st century and spend money on food, education, and health care instead of implements of war.
Clinton said she believes North Korea will eventually change because people cannot live under oppressive conditions where they are starved to death, thrown into gulags, and have their basic human rights denied.
Kim Jong-un took over as North Korean leader in December, after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
The West knows almost nothing about the young Kim, who so far has shown little inclination to grant North Koreans more freedom or end the country's nuclear weapons program.
Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held talks Thursday with South Korea's foreign and defense ministers.