Key Points:

A joke made by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Wellington last night has angered the High Commissioner for Singapore.

Miss Seetoh Hoy Cheng was in the audience at Victoria University to hear Dr Mahathir's lecture, Criminalising War: The Path To Peaceful Resolution.

He said New Zealand had made a good decision not to maintain an Air Force strike capability and that Malaysia would also rather not have combat aircraft.

"We, of course, have to buy the latest aircraft ... in order to ensure that people will not attack us, by being prepared for war. I don't know whom we are going to go to war with. Maybe Singapore."

After the audience laughed, Dr Mahathir added: "The Singapore High Commissioner is not here?'

"Who are our enemies? We are buying weapons which we hope we will never have to use. Imagine that amount of waste."

During a question and answer session after the lecture, Seetoh Hoy Cheng - to much laughter from the full lecture theatre - identified herself and said that while she was encouraged by Dr Mahathir's comments supporting peace, she took exception to his comment about invading Singapore.

Afterwards, she said she was "livid" and was not at all amused by his comment.

Dr Mahathir said his comment was meant to be humorous.

"I was just joking. I wasn't going to go to war. That would be a silly thing. It would destroy both our countries."

During his lecture Dr Mahathir said all countries should renounce "offensive" war, and only wage "defensive" war as part of a world coalition against aggressor nations.

He said Malaysia was a small and weak country not much bigger than New Zealand and people in such countries needed to change their mindset about war.

"We should criminalise war ... We should begin to think this is not really the way of civilised people, killing others in order to solve a problem."