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Look Away: Obama and Putin Too Busy to Address Issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past President Barack Obama as the world leaders get into position for a family photo at the Water Cube or National Aquatic Center before a welcome banquet in Beijing, China, on Nov. 10. SERGEI ILNITSKY / EPA

Putting a bright face on the future of U.S. ties to China, President Barack Obama announced Monday that the two countries would start granting visas to each other's citizens valid for up to a decade. Yet thorny issues like human rights and trade lurked just under the surface, reflecting the tough road ahead for the two economic powers as Obama began a weeklong trip to the region.

On the sidelines of the economic summit, Obama also had a brief encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping who has been locked in conflict with Obama over his country's actions in Ukraine. But the two leaders didn't have time to discuss any issues, said a senior U.S. official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

Image: APEC 2014 Summit in Beijing, China
Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin as President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping's talk before a fireworks show in Beijing, China, on Nov. 10. SERGEI ILNITSKY / EPA

— The Associated Press