New State Dept travel guidance ranks countries by threat level

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The US Department of State has included Azerbaijan in the list of countries with increased security threat after launching improvements, which will provide USA citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide.

The department on Wednesday released a new streamlined travel advisory system that ranks every country, including Antarctica, according to their danger levels from one to four, with Level One being the safest and Level Four carrying the warning "do not travel".

The US State Department has warned Americans to exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism and to avoid going to Jammu and Kashmir except the Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.

Armenia has been included in Level 1, the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk.

The State Department recommends travellers to be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.

Besides Malaysia, Canada and Australia, other countries in the same category include Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand. "Levels Three and Four we review every six months just as we did Travel Warnings", the bureau's acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services, Michelle Bernier-Toth was quoted as saying.

The State Department has not changed its methods for determining the country-specific threats.

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Officials in the Kenyan government and the country's tourism industry are likely to welcome the changes initiated by the Trump administration.

On January 10, the Department of State launched improvements to how it shares information with US travelers.

What were previously referred to as "warnings" and "alerts" are being re-classified as "advisories", accompanied by a color and number-based system with detailed descriptions on why an advisory has been issued. Advisories are based on information from intelligence agencies, USA embassies and host countries' governments, she said.

Meanwhile, alerts, such as hurricane warnings, demonstration alerts and other considerations, will continue to be released from the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

"As we were putting all this together we did a very careful assessment", said Bernier-Toth, explaining the Tier 3 ranking, "we talked to all of our experts, and this is where we came out on Cuba".

"Terrorists have targeted USA diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past, and evidence suggests they continue to do so", says the State Department.

"We wanted it to be an easier to understand system", Risch said.