A Taiwanese defense official says Beijing is pressuring South Korea to stop a military student exchange program with the self-ruled island.

Wednesday's remarks from Defense Ministry Spokesman Lo Shao-ho appear to undermine President Ma Ying-jeou's claims that Taiwan's improving relations with Beijing can provide Taipei more space for international maneuvering.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. The mainland sees the island as part of its territory and frequently uses its growing international clout to pressure other countries to keep their distance from Taipei.

Lo said Taiwan is trying to ensure the continuation of the small South Korea military student exchange program.