APEC Summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday had a close-up brush with Western anger over the Ukraine crisis and the downing of Flight MH17, Tuesday as Japan PM called for Japan-China to step up tentative efforts to put deep hostility behind them.Putin held separate bilateral meetings in Beijing with US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott -- after the latter had used colourful sporting terminology to demand a face-to-face encounter with the Russian strongman.But the Kremlin said that on the fate of the Malaysia Airlines plane at least, which the West says was downed by a Russian missile supplied to pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine, Putin was not standing in the way of a full and transparent accounting.The White House said Obama and Putin had met three times yesterday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in the Chinese capital, which was taking place ahead of a G20 summit to be hosted by Abbott in Australia this weekend.

"Their conversations covered Iran, Syria, and Ukraine," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told reporters in Beijing.The biggest current differences between the US and Russia, though, are over Ukraine. In mid-October, Putin accused Obama of having a hostile attitude towards Russia, while Obama decried "Russian aggression in Europe" in a recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly.Earlier, US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters in Beijing: "We continue to be deeply troubled by Russian activities. If they continue... it's a recipe for isolation."Western sanctions, as well as falling oil prices, appear to have only antagonised the Russian leader instead of forcing him to change tack.In Asia, Beijing and Tokyo's historically frosty relations have plunged to their lowest in decades over competing claims to Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea, and Tokyo's 20th-century history of aggression.

"Japan and China, we need each other. We are in a way inseparably bound with each other," Shinzo Abe told reporters in Beijing after an Asia-Pacific summit."Japan and China both have responsibility for peace and prosperity of the region and of the world."Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Abe on Monday in Beijing on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit hosted this year by China.The rare encounter -- the first by leaders of the world's second- and third-largest economies in three years -- has raised hopes of a possible thaw.China and Japan are closely linked economically, but political tensions have endured between Asia's two heavyweights for decades, stemming largely from lingering anger over Japan's brutal World War II invasion of its neighbour.