What a difference seven short years makes when it comes to Cabinet policies. After reading Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s major policy speech on Japan-ASEAN relations delivered yesterday in Hanoi, it felt like it came from a different age when comparing the speech to the one made on the same topic by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Singapore in July 2013.

Seven year ago, Abe, in his famously long and eloquent speech titled “Japan and ASEAN, Always in Tandem,” dedicated only one sentence to China’s maritime activities, saying “I am delighted that ASEAN and Japan have gone beyond their economic relations to forge a relationship that takes on responsibility for the security of the region, particularly freedom of navigation on the seas.”

In contrast, Suga was much more eloquent in talking about China without referring to it, saying “I strongly support the AOIP ( ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific) that “powerfully sets forth the rule of law, openness, freedom, transparency and inclusiveness as ASEAN’s principles for behavior.” For those who may not have read the speech, here is what Suga had to say about China.