Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany has opened talks with China aimed at bringing two giant pandas to Berlin's zoo.

Merkel's announcement followed a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday. She didn't specify when the pandas might arrive but said: "This is a very special piece of China that will please a lot of people in Germany."

The giant panda is unique to China and pandas are regularly sent abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.

Berlin's last panda, Bao Bao, was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West Germany's chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. Bao Bao died in 2012.