"China is becoming a very important global player. China is a strategic partner of the European Union. Lithuania and China will for the first time sign a defense cooperation agreement of general character but it will be the first such cooperation agreement in history. I believe that every similar agreement that brings us closer to peace than to any kind of tensions is extremely important," the minister told journalists at a press conference earlier on Monday.
"Although the Lithuanian and Chinese armies are incomparable in sizes, in the context of this press conference, I can point to another sign showing that our status in the world has changed. Our NATO membership and our membership in the EU make Lithuania an equal partner even to such powers as China," she said.
Responding to a comment that the West is increasingly seeing China as a threat, Juknevičiene said: "The European Union has never declared anywhere that China is a threat. Lithuania has big neighbors around it, and I would really want cooperation of this type with our big neighbor Russia, that Russians respond to our repeated proposals to cooperate," the minister said.
Juknevičienė is scheduled to return to Vilnius on Friday.
China's defense budget has risen sharply over recent years. According to estimates, it will exceed 106 billion US dollars in 2012 to rank second in the world, behind the United States.
Following 1989 bloody events in Tiananmen Square, the EU has imposed weapon embargo on China.