Russia and Canada declare their rights to the North Pole region
Agence France-Presse in Ottawa
Canada has vowed to defend the North Pole and Santa Claus, insisting the mythical figure is a citizen, after Russia ordered its military to step up its Arctic presence.
Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, cited Canada's claim of the North Pole to bash an opposition party in parliament.
"We are defending the north further by making a claim on the North Pole," he said on Tuesday. "We know that the [opposition] Liberals do not think that the North Pole or Santa Claus are in Canada. We do. We are going to make sure that we protect them as best we can."
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau agreed, saying: "Everyone knows that Santa Claus is Canadian.
"His postal code is H0H 0H0," he said, alluding to a mailing address assigned to Santa by Canada Post. The postal service responds each year to tens of thousands of children's letters from around the world addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada.
The main opposition New Democratic Party, however, insisted that "Santa Claus is a citizen of the world".
The mock-frosty exchange had a serious side. It came after Canada signalled its intentions to claim the North Pole and surrounding Arctic waters while announcing on Monday the filing of a UN application seeking to vastly expand its Atlantic sea boundary.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the move by ordering the formation of new military units in the Arctic that are to remain on constant combat alert.
Russia, he said, was "ever more actively reclaiming this promising region, returning to it" after a brief absence that followed the Soviet Union's collapse.
Russia has an overlapping claim to both the North Pole as well as large swathes of the Arctic that the US Geological Survey thinks could hold 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and up to 30 per cent of its hidden natural gas reserves.
Putin told an expanded defence ministry meeting on Tuesday that Russia's national interests and security lay in a bolstered Arctic presence after a brief post-Soviet retreat.
"I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic," the Kremlin chief said in televised remarks.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that his directives would be strictly followed and implemented on time. A government-sponsored diving team in 2007 planted a Russian flag under the North Pole, and the Kremlin has long considered plans to deploy a large military presence in the region.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse