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Washington today revealed it would quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) a day earlier than planned, once again raising the spectre of nuclear-tipped missiles deployed on European soil. The withdrawal comes just days after it emerged the US has begun developing low-yield, “tactical” nukes following concerns that its existing arsenal of warheads are too big to use. The 1987 INF was designed to avert nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union by banning the development, testing or deployment of certain types of short- and intermediate-range missiles.

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Washington and NATO say Russia has been flouting the treaty with its new Novator 9M729 missile but Moscow insists the weapon is not covered by those banned under the accord.

Last-ditch talks in Beijing yesterday aimed at salvaging the INF failed to reach a breakthrough, with Russia accusing the US of using the 9M729 as a false pretext to quit the pact and develop new weapons of its own.

Announcing the US was suspending compliance with the deal and starting the clock on a 180-day exit notice, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Moscow destroy its 9M729 missiles.

He said: "If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty within this six-month period by verifiably destroying its INF-violating missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment, the treaty will terminate."

INF TREATY: Trump has ripped up the agreement paving the way for a new Cold WarINF TREATY: has ripped up the agreement paving the way for a new Cold War (Image: EXPRESS)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced today America is pulling out of the INF TreatyUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced today America is pulling out of the INF Treaty (Image: AFP/Getty)

But despite not formally leaving the INF for six months, Washington’s suspension of the treaty means it is now free to start developing new missiles of its own, raising the prospect they could be deployed in Europe.

Following yesterday’s failed talks, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson said: "We are then also able to conduct the research and development and work on the systems we haven't been able to use because we've been in compliance with the treaty.

"Come February 2, this weekend, if the Department of Defence chooses to do that, they'll be able to do that."

Meanwhile, it emerged this week that the US has begun making a new tactical nuclear warhead for its Trident missiles.

Washington fears its current arsenal of thermonuclear weapons are too destructive and therefore ineffective as a deterrent because rivals such as Russia and China may think the US would never dare use them.

Experts believe the new weapons could be reduced from the current 100 kilotons to just around five - approximately a third of the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima which instantly killed between 60,000 and 80,000 people.

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