A U.S. government jet sits on the tarmac outside the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron base at the Victoria International Airport. It was there, transporting military officials to an Asia-Pacific conference on defence issues. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

A U.S. government jet sits on the tarmac outside the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron base at the Victoria International Airport. It was there, transporting military officials to an Asia-Pacific conference on defence issues. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Victoria hosting Asia-Pacific defence conference

Canada hosting top military brass from nations bordering the Pacific ocean for the first time

If an aircraft decked out in U.S. government markings at the Victoria airport wasn’t enough of a giveaway something was happening in Victoria this week, the 250-plus uniformed members of various nations’ militaries certainly helped.

Victoria hosted the 19th Pacific Command Chiefs of Defence (PACOM CHODS) conference Sept. 3 to 5 at the Victoria Conference Centre. It’s the first time the event has been hosted by Canada.

The event brings together top military brass from countries that border the Pacific ocean, said Lt.-Cdr. John Nethercott, senior public affairs officer with Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), with the Canadian Armed Forces.

The conference is being hosted by Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance and Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry B. Harris. Nethercott said there are 24 to 25 countries represented at the event — from the hosts to France and the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Japan, Chile, Mongolia and Mexico, to name a few. The last conference was held in the Philippines in 2016.

Nethercott said the annual conferences are an open forum event for those countries’ chiefs of defence to discuss “concerns of mutual importance including, but not limited to, common security challenges, promotion of military relationships, and fostering regional collaboration.”

“Multilateral defence relations are an important component of Canada’s overall engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” Nethercott stated in an email to Black Press.

He added that North Korea, and its nuclear weapons development, was likely to be up for discussion, but was not a specific topic on the agenda.

A large security presence was in place for the three-day conference, and preparations had been going on for about a year.