DENVER (Reuters) - While the North American Aerospace Defense Command stays alert for any signs of a North Korea missile launch – what officials in Pyongyang have described as a “Christmas gift” – it is also tracking the legendary figure who delivers presents to children across the world, the command said on Monday.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, NORAD is a combined U.S. and Canadian military command whose mission is to issue aerospace and maritime warnings and controls across North America.
For more than six decades, it has also offered real-time animated tracking of Santa Claus, also known as Kris Kringle, as his reindeer-powered sleigh traverses the globe delivering Yuletide gifts to children.
“As NORAD conducts its primary mission of defending North America from threats, we’re proud to continue our tradition of tracking Santa’s journey around the world,” NORAD said in a statement.
NORAD’s Santa tracking website www.noradsanta.org gets nearly 15 million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories across the globe, the agency said.
NORAD in recent years has been tracking North Korean long-range missile tests. Pyongyang warned Washington earlier this month of a possible “Christmas gift”. That came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave the United States until the end of the year to propose new concessions in talks over his country’s nuclear arsenal and reducing tensions between the two long-time adversaries.
NORAD’s Santa-tracking tradition started in 1955 when a Colorado Springs department store misprinted the phone number to the North Pole in a newspaper advertisement, according to its website.
The first call came from a little girl and went to U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, director of what was then known as the Continental Air Defense Command.
The colonel assured the girl that Santa was on en route, and when more children called the command centre, the military added a new task to its defence mission.
Renamed NORAD three years later as a combined Canadian and U.S. agency, the Santa mission has continued uninterrupted ever since. Santa watchers can now track his whereabouts through NORAD’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts.
Reporting by Keith Coffman; editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker
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