ISO 3166-1 Numeric

ISO 3166-1 numeric (or numeric-3) codes are three-digit country codes defined in ISO 3166-1, part of the ISO 3166 standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), to represent countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest. They are identical to the three-digit country codes developed and maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division, from which they originate in its UN M.49 standard. They were first included as part of the ISO 3166 standard in its second edition in 1981, but they have been released by the United Nations Statistics Division since as early as 1970.

An advantage of numeric codes over alphabetic codes is script (writing system) independence. The ISO 3166-1 alphabetic codes (alpha-2 and alpha-3) use letters from the English alphabet and are suitable for languages based on the Latin alphabet. For people and systems using non-Latin scripts (such as Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Hangul, and Japanese), the English alphabet may be unavailable or difficult to use, understand, or correctly interpret. While numeric codes overcome the problems of script dependence, this independence comes at the cost of mnemonic convenience.

Read more about ISO 3166-1 NumericDeleted Codes

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ISO 3166-1 Numeric - Deleted Codes
... When countries merge, split, or undergo territorial change, their numeric codes are deleted and new numeric codes are assigned ... For example East Germany and West Germany used numeric codes 278 and 280 respectively before their unification in 1990 ... Since then, the unified Germany has used numeric code 276, while keeping the alphabetic codes for West Germany ...