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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was heading to China on Wednesday with a business delegation, amid tension in both Beijing and the European Union over trade issues with the United States and Washington’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal.

Merkel’s trip to China follows visits to Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump and to Sochi, Russia for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over recent weeks.

Despite tensions in relations with the U.S., German officials have been keen to stress their continued commitment to trans-Atlantic ties and dismiss suggestions that Germany is seeking alternative alliances, even as they find common ground with Russia and China on the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

Merkel’s program in Beijing on Thursday includes meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping, as well as a meeting with artists and scientists. On Friday, she travels to Shenzhen in southern China.

Ahead of the trip, the chancellor said her talks with Chinese leaders will address issues such as the rule of law, the economy and international trade disputes.

“China and Germany stand by the rules of the WTO; however, we will talk about reciprocal access on trade and intellectual property questions,” she said. “And we want to strengthen multilateralism. That will play a role in our talks.”

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Merkel to bring up in her meetings the house arrest of Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and call for her release.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin that “we are aware of the very difficult situation of Liu Xiabo’s widow.”

He declined to go into details, only saying that “the chancellor and the German government regularly work worldwide to protect human rights. That is also true for her visits to China.”

The trip comes on the heels of high-level talks in Washington between American and Chinese officials that have somewhat lessened tensions between the two countries and buoyed stock markets.


Frank Jordans contributed to this report.