(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with S. Korea's statement; CHANGES headline, dateline)
SEOUL/TOKYO, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Wednesday it expects Japan to handle the issue of its wartime sexual slavery with sincerity as tension spiked after Seoul announced it will dissolve a Tokyo-funded foundation for the victims.
The foreign ministry stressed the fundamental purpose and spirit of a 2015 accord between the two neighbors was to recover the honor and dignity of victims and also heal their wounds.
The statement came hours after the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced a decision to disband the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation created as part of the agreement to fully settle the history issue involving many Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan's military during World War II. Victims are euphemistically called comfort women.
South Korea said the Japan-funded organization has not been functioning as intended, with victims refusing to accept disbursements.
They said the deal was signed unilaterally by the Park Geun-hye administration without a victims-centered approach.
The ministry said the government is not seeking to nullify or renegotiate the comfort women agreement itself. Seoul wants Tokyo to take measures the victims can accept, it added without providing details.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accused the Moon Jae-in government of reneging on the formal deal.
"If an international promise is not kept, state-to-state relations are not forged," he told reporters shortly after Seoul's announcement on the plan to terminate the operation of the foundation.
The 2015 accord represents a "final and irreversible" solution to the wartime issue, he added.
He asked South Korea to take a responsible step as a member of the international community.
Foreign Minister Kono Taro also said Seoul's move is unacceptable.
"The announcement is problematic in relation to the Japan-South Korea agreement and it's totally unacceptable," he said.
He stressed that it's South Korea's responsibility to implement the agreement faithfully.
Vice Foreign Minister, Takeo Akiba, summoned Seoul's Ambassador to Tokyo, Lee Su-hoon, to lodge a formal protest.
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