NEW YORK – Apple said Tuesday that it was delaying next week's release of the iPad 2 in Japan because of the earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country.

"We are delaying the launch of the iPad 2 in Japan while the country and our teams focus on the recovery following the recent disaster," Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, told AFP.

"Our hearts go out to the people in Japan, including our employees and their families, who have been impacted by this tragedy," Kerris said.

The Apple spokeswoman said that an Apple retail store in the city of Sendai on Japan's tsunami-hit northeast Pacific coast had been closed.

The iPad 2 had been scheduled to go on sale in Japan and some two dozen other countries on March 25. Apple did not provide a new date for the start of sales in Japan. It said availability in the other countries remains unaffected.

Apple's latest touchscreen tablet computer hit stores in the United States on Friday and some analysts have predicted that it could prove to be an even bigger hit than the original model released in April of last year.

"Apple may have sold three times more iPad 2s in the first two days vs. iPad 1," Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said.

Greater-than-expected US demand for the original iPad forced Apple to delay the international launch of the device last year.