"This murder of George Floyd is very terrible. Racism is something terrible. Society in the United States is very polarised," Angela Merkel told national broadcaster ZDF in an interview.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday condemned the death in US police custody of George Floyd as "murder", saying that "racism is something terrible".

"This murder of George Floyd is very terrible. Racism is something terrible. Society in the United States is very polarised," she told national broadcaster ZDF in an interview.

Asked about US President Donald Trump's role in the unrest sweeping the country, Merkel said while she tries "to bring people together, to seek reconciliation", the US leader's "political style is a very controversial one".

Merkel has been a pointed critic of Trump's stance including on his go-it-alone style that sidelines international cooperation.

In a striking message to Trump after his election victory in 2016, Merkel had tied her pledge of close ties to democratic values.

Any "close cooperation" must be on the basis of the "values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and human dignity, regardless of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political belief," she said at the time.