North Korea may be able to build nuclear weapons on its own in about five years from now, Defense Minister Lee Jong-koo said Friday.

The South Korean defense chief touched on North Korea while he was discussing with a group of journalists the impact of the recent Persian Gulf War on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula."North Korea has produced and stored uranium from its two atomic power stations and has been building a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, and by 1995 or 1996 it may come to possess its own nuclear weapons though in primitive form," Lee said.

"We hope North Korea will join international nuclear safety organizations and accept their inspections and stop its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said.

Lee said South Korea has an early warning system that helps its forces maintain effective vigilance against a surprise attack from North Korea.

He said hostilities in Korea would lead to a full-scale total war unlike the Gulf War, which was of limited nature. South Korea must be fully prepared against any North Korean provocations, Lee said.