North Korea issued a call for unification of the entire Korean peninsula Thursday as a dozen North Korean women headed south of the DMZ to join a unified Korean Olympic hockey team. In an announcement addressed to "all Koreans at home and abroad," North Korean state media called for a "breakthrough" toward reunification without the help of other countries, reports Reuters. The announcement denounced joint military drills with "outside forces" and urged Koreans to work for a peaceful climate on the peninsula by promoting "contact, travel, cooperation between North and South Korea." Athletes from both countries will march under the same flag at next month's opening ceremony.
The statement was much softer than many recent North Korean declarations, though it did warn that Pyongyang will "smash" any obstacles to reunification. The AP reports that Pyongyang is planning to stage a major event on Feb. 8—just a day before the opening of the Pyeongchang Games—to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military, despite worries that a major military show could be a setback in relations with Seoul. When the North Korean hockey players arrived in the South for training they were presented with flowers by their South Korean counterparts, though a few dozen protesters held up anti-Pyongyang banners and called for the beheading of Kim Jong Un, the Telegraph reports. (Read more North Korea stories.)