Members of the South Korean women's ice hockey team pose for a photo with their North Korean counterparts at the national training center in Jincheon on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yonhap
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Pyongyang issued a call for unification with South Korea on Thursday as North Korean athletes headed south to practice with a joint Olympic ice hockey team.
Pyongyang issued the statement through the state-run Korean Central News Agency amid an annual conference of governmental officials, political parties and organizations. The statement said Koreans should pursue unification without the interference of foreign countries, specifically the United States.
"Let all Koreans rise up in the peace-keeping struggle against war to baffle the reckless nuclear war moves of the U.S. which brings disaster to this land, setting dangerous flames," it said.
The conference, which is normally held after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, frequently pushes national reunification, Newsweek reported.
"Let us smash the moves of the separatist forces at home and abroad and dynamically usher in a fresh phase of national reunification, holding aloft the banner of national independence and by our nation itself," the statement continued.
The call for unity came as twelve North Korean hockey players traveled to South Korea on Thursday to take part in the first practice of the joint women's hockey team.
Earlier this month, North and South Korea agreed to march together under a unified flag during the opening ceremony for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month. They also agreed to create a single women's hockey team to compete during the games.
North Korea plans to send 22 athletes to compete in three sports and five disciplines at the Games, including figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.