Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has landed in Hawaii where he will visit Pearl Harbor, the site of the 1941 attack which killed 2,300 American servicemen and brought the US into WW2.

Abe is due to be met by US President Barack Obama, marking the first time that Japanese and US leaders have visited the site. He will then stay in Hawaii for a summit with Obama, the last time the two leaders will meet before Obama hands over the reins to Donald Trump.

The Japanese prime minister's trip to the historically significant site comes after Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, where around 150,000 people are believed to have been killed when America dropped an atomic bomb on the city in 1945.

Ahead of the trip, Abe said that he planned to pray for the dead but would not be giving an apology for Japan's attack 75 years ago. Experts see the move as an attempt to boost Abe's already robust approval ratings ahead of a possible election early next year.

It is also being seen as a shot across the bows to regional rival China, which has had strained ties with Obama and looks set to have even more difficult relationship with Trump, who has already fallen foul of Beijing on a number of occasions since the November election.

"The planning for a Pearl Harbor visit has been in the works ever since Obama visited Hiroshima. It's mostly a reciprocal gesture and symbolic of the U.S. and Japan burying the hatchet," Columbia University emeritus professor Gerry Curtis told Reuters earlier this month.

"It sends a message to China about the strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship (and is) probably also intended to send the same message to Trump," he said.