BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama took time out of his busy diplomatic schedule in China to meet with his half-brother, who lives in the southern part of the country -- but only for five minutes.

Obama had the brief meeting with Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, who had the same, late, father as the U.S. president, on Monday evening in Beijing, a White House official said.

Ndesandjo has kept a low public profile since reports surfaced last year that he was living and working in the southern Chinese capitalist and manufacturing haven of Shenzhen, around an hour's train ride from Hong Kong.

He made a rare public appearance earlier this month in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, to launch a novel he said drew on his painful childhood under an abusive father.

In an interview with CNN, Obama said he didn't know his half-brother very well, but he did not feel Ndesandjo was betraying private family details in his book.

It's no secret that my father was a troubled person. Anybody who's read my first book, 'Dreams of My Father', knows that, you know, he had an alcoholism problem and that he didn't treat his families very well, the president said.

And, you know, so, obviously, that's just a sad part of my history and my background. But it's not something that I -- I spend a lot of time brooding over.

Ndesandjo last met Obama in the United States during the presidential election, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Writing by Ben Blanchard)