Newly appointed Justice Minister Midori Matsushima on Thursday backed the death penalty as a deterrent against crime and said she planned to stiffen the penalty for rape and bolster immigration staff.

Noting that the death penalty enjoys strong public support, the former Asahi Shimbun reporter turned politician said in a group media interview that scrapping capital punishment would be inappropriate in light of Japan's recurring heinous crimes.

In a carefully phrased poll conducted every five years by the Cabinet Office, 85.6 percent of the respondents said in 2009 that capital punishment is "unavoidable if the circumstance demands it."