Correction (was: Re: Liaison)

Doug Ewell dewell at
Mon Apr 3 08:52:45 CEST 2006

On Saturday, April 1, 2006 22:58 PST, I wrote:

> Remember that every code element ever assigned to a country since
> 1974 is either assigned or reserved today, and there are still 345
> that have never been used.

I did some further checking, and found that this is not true.  Although 
many of the withdrawn code elements from ISO 3166-1 have been moved to 
one of the "reserved" categories, there are 15 that were simply put back 
into the "unassigned" pool to be reused.

These code elements, together with the year they were withdrawn, are:

BQ   British Antarctic Territory (1979)
CT   Canton and Enderbury Islands (1984)
DD   German Democratic Republic (1990)
FQ   French Southern and Antarctic Territories (1979)
HV   Upper Volta, Republic of (1984)
JT   Johnston Island (1986)
MI   Midway Islands (1986)
NH   New Hebrides (1980)
NQ   Dronning Maud Land (1983)
PC   Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (1986)
PU   U.S. Miscellaneous Pacific Islands (1986)
PZ   Panama Canal Zone (1980)
VD   Viet Nam, Democratic Republic of (1977)
WK   Wake Island (1986)
YD   Yemen, People's Democratic Republic of (1990)

Even though my earlier statement, that 345 of the possible 676 ISO 
3166-1 alpha-2 code elements are unassigned, is still correct, it is not 
true that every code element assigned since 1974 is either assigned or 
reserved.  It might be wise to think of these 15 code elements as also 
being "off limits" for future assignment.

Indeed, the Language Subtag Registry includes DD and YD as (deprecated) 
region subtags, since they were withdrawn by ISO 3166/MA after 1988, the 
date of the ISO 3166 standard referenced in RFC 1766.

Therefore, it would be more correct to say that only 330, not 345, of 
the possible 676 code elements are available for use.  This is still 
more than 48 percent of the total, and IMHO it does not detract from the 
point that alpha-2 country code elements are not in short supply, and 
need not be recycled, unless the need to provide mnemonic codes 
outweighs the desire to avoid recycling.

I would suggest that ISO 3166/MA should consider moving these 15 code 
elements into one of the "reserved" categories, probably "transitionally 
reserved," and will probably write to the MA requesting this.

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California, USA

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