TOKYO - Japan and Lithuania have decided to upgrade bilateral ties and start up security dialogue, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday, as the Baltic country faces diplomatic row with China over Taiwan.

Lithuania has come under sustained Chinese pressure to reverse a decision last year to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the Capital Vilnius under its own name.

"Japan and Lithuania are important partners that share basic values such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law," Kishida told a joint news conference in Tokyo with his Lithuanian counterpart Ingrida Simonyte.

"I'm glad we can upgrade our ties to strategic partnership at the time of Prime Minister Simonyte's Japan visit ... In valuing the fact that Lithuania is conducting its diplomacy in a resolute matter, we also decided to start up security dialogue."

China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania and pressured multinational companies to sever ties with it.

Taiwan's government strongly objects to China's sovereignty claims and says only the island's 23 million people can decide its future.

"Recent geopolitical challenges from North Korea's reckless and dangerous missile launches and Chinese economic coercion and to the brutal, large-scale war that Russia has started in Europe show a need for like-minded nations to cooperate closer together," Simonyte said.

"This partnership serves the mutual interest of our nations and it is aimed at making the world a better and safer place for democracy and all the freedom-loving people," she said.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Tomasz Janowski)