efe-epaTokyo

Japan on Friday reiterated its support for the Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself the interim president of the South American country and has been recognized by a number of major world powers.

Throwing his government's weight behind Juan Guaido, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said his country would stop cooperating with the government led by President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuelan.

Kono clarified his government's stand in a press conference when asked about the new parameters of Tokyo-Caracas relations.

On Tuesday, the foreign minister had announced that the government expressed "clear support for interim President Guaido", and called for "free and fair" elections to be held in the South American country as soon as possible.

However, a day later Venezuelan Ambassador to Japan Seiko Ishikawa claimed that he was informed by Japanese high officials that Kono's announcement did not amount to Guaido's recognition as president.

He insisted that the unnamed Japanese officials whom he met Tuesday were categorical in affirming that they were well-versed with the legal implications of this decision and expressed their willingness to continue working with the government of President Maduro.

In Friday's press conference, Kono again referred to Guaido as the interim president and insisted that he had Japan's support.

Kono also ruled out any possibility of withdrawing the credentials of Ishikawa as the representative of the Venezuelan government since he represented Maduro.

"I know him (Ishikawa) very well. He has been very helpful in promoting the bilateral relationship between the two countries. So, I have no intention of withdrawing credentials or anything," Kono said.

He said Ishikawa could have "slightly misinterpreted" the situation but did not specify how - in an apparent reference to the envoy's remarks about Tokyo's willingness to keep working with the Maduro government.

Venezuela has been steeped in a political crisis after Guaido, opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, proclaimed himself as interim president of the country in the beginning of this year.

Guaido had claimed that Maduro - whom many in the opposition described as a dictator - had "usurped" his position by being sworn in as president, following what he called an illegitimate election.

The United States, Brazil, Canada and other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Colombia and Chile have already backed Guaido.

Venezuela, an oil-rich country, has been hammered by lower global oil prices and economic sanctions imposed by the US. The country has been in recession for almost throughout the reign of Maduro, who had taken over after predecessor Hugo Chavez's death in 2013.